Simply put, arthritis is an inflammatory disorder of the joints. Typically, arthritis is associated with aging, but arthritis can affect anyone of any age. More than half of the people who have arthritis are under the age of 65. Joint pain usually accompanies arthritis. There are over 100 types of arthritis, but the two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis is the most common chronic illness in the United States of America. Of Americans suffering from arthritis 60% of those suffering are women.
Osteoarthritis has to do with the wear and tear of the joints and cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation due to problems in the immune system. Arthritis affects different people differently in terms of both their symptoms and the response to treatment.
While a doctor typically diagnoses the arthritis, ongoing treatment is with a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists are doctors specializing in the treatment of rheumatoid illnesses and more specifically arthritis and the pain that people suffer from with arthritis. Rheumatologists treat patients non-surgically.
Early and accurate diagnosis is key in the treatment of arthritis. The sooner arthritis is diagnosed the more likely doctors will be able to effectively treat the arthritis and prevent further damage which may be irreversible. It is important to note that not all types of arthritis are devastating. Many forms of arthritis, such as most forms of osteoarthritis, are more of an annoying discomfort than a life altering disease. Usually patients with mild forms of arthritis are able to continue with their normal routines and only require over the counter anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen.
Symptoms of arthritis include joint pain and inflammation. Limited joint function is also a common symptom of arthritis. Joint stiffness, redness, swelling and warmth at the site of the joint are all common in arthritis. Tenderness at the joint is also possible.
Other symptoms that can occur are fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, fatigue, weight loss, and other problems of various organs including the kidneys, liver and heart.
The cause of arthritis depends on the type of arthritis in question. Injury is the usual cause of osteoarthritis. Other causes of arthritis include metabolic issues, genetics and infection. Doctors cannot always be absolutely sure about what causes arthritis in some patients.
Secondary diseases can also cause arthritis and arthritis like symptoms. These diseases include lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, hepatitis, lyme disease, inflammatory bowel disease that includes Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
Early and accurate diagnoses will offer a more positive prognosis. Doctors usually meet with a patient several times to get an accurate diagnosis. Doctors look at the joints for signs of inflammation, deformity and signs of other diseases that could be the cause of the inflammation.
In some cases doctors will order several tests that include blood tests, urine test, tests of the joint fluid and x-rays. Ultimately the diagnosis comes from a review of the symptoms, the areas of inflamed joints and any blood and x-ray findings.
Treatment of arthritis is dependant upon the type of arthritis the patient exhibits and how accurate the arthritis diagnosis is. The accuracy of the diagnosis is improves the likelihood of successful treatment. Treatments can include everything from medication to lifestyle changes and physical therapy. Other treatments include splinting of the affected joints, paraffin wax dip treatments and as a last resort, surgical treatment of the affected joints.
Studies have shown that physical therapy has excellent long-term results. Regularly exercising the affected joints seems to provide lasting pain relief, but it also helps to maintain joint health and the health of the entire body.
Medication treatments include anti-inflammatory medications and in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, immune altering drugs are available.
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