Arthritis is a painful disease that takes on several forms. Living as
comfortably with it as you can is key to maintaining an enjoyable lifestyle.
There are several different types of arthritis. First, let’s define each one
and then learn to live with them.
This form of arthritis can be caused by congenital defects, trauma,
metabolic disorders, or wear and tear on a joint. “Osteo” means “bone,” and “arthritis”
means “inflammation.” Osteoarthritis is the progressive breakdown of cartilage.
Cartilage is necessary to protect and cushion joints. Once the cartilage is
broken down, the bones begin to rub against each other causing damage to the
bones and the underlying tissue. A person affected by osteoarthritis will feel
more pain throughout the day as the joints are used more often. Their joints
will appear larger and will feel stiff and painful. The most common joints for
this disease to strike are the hips and knees, although any joint may be
affected. Osteoarthritis is limited to the joints. Given enough time,
osteoarthritis can become crippling. Obesity and osteoporosis (bone loss) may
aggravate the disease. Changes in the weather can affect the severity of the
symptoms of the disease.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:
Limited joint movement
Joint pain, usually
associated with activity, sometimes accompanied by “creaking”
Pain in the spine
Stiffness, lasting less than
Occasional swelling, caused
by fluid around the joint
Joint deformity, in advanced
Grinding sensation with joint
Your physician will diagnose the disease on the basis of your history, joint
pain, restricted movement, and x-rays of the joint. Early treatment can arrest
or improve the disease. There is no cure.
Treatment of Osteoarthritis:
Treatment may include medications to control inflammation and pain, exercise
to keep joints mobile, and heat and cold therapy. Your physician will base your
treatment on how severe the disease is, how much your symptoms affect your
daily life, and the amount of joint damage you have suffered. The goal of
treatment is to ultimately manage the disease by reducing symptoms and
maintaining joint functions.
Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It usually
affects the wrist, hand, elbow, shoulder, knee, and ankle joints. Usually the
joints on both sides of the body are affected. Rheumatoid arthritis, an
autoimmune disease, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own
tissues. Pain occurs because of inflammation of the joint’s membrane lining.
When you have RA, your immune system is producing too much of a protein called
TNF-alpha. In moderate to severe cases, your physician may prescribe a
medication that blocks production of TNF-alpha. Not only does pain and
stiffness occur, but loss of movement can occur as well. Rheumatoid arthritis
is not limited to the joints, but can also affect the body’s organs as well.
With the progression of time, rheumatoid arthritis, like osteoarthritis, can
become crippling. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown although genetic
factors may be a reason.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis:
You may also, but not
necessarily experience fatigue, fever, or a decrease in appetite.
Diagnosing Rheumatoid arthritis:
Your physician may conduct a lab test to search for an antibody termed “rheumatoid
factor” that is found in 80% of people diagnosed with RA. Also, in your
physical examination, he will examine any swollen or tender joints. If you are
diagnosed with RA, you should begin treatment immediately, under the care of
your physician. Early treatment can prevent further joint damage.
Treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis:
Your physician may prescribe medications to slow or prevent joint
destruction. These medications are called disease-modifying antirheumatic
drugs. He may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers.
Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to ease flare ups of the disease.
The goal of treatment is to retard the joint damage, reduce joint pain, and
help you maintain your lifestyle by staving off permanent disability.
Arthritis at Home
Talk to your doctor about creating an exercise program you can follow.
Exercise can help you maintain and gain muscle strength. You may have noticed
that stress aggravates your arthritis. Chill out by listening to soothing
music, going for a short walk, or taking deep breaths. Find a hobby that is
enjoyable. Maybe your way of relaxing is reading or journaling. Whatever lowers
your stress level is what’s right for you. Stretching, strengthening, and
conditioning exercises may help to reduce pain and improve joint function.
Swimming is an excellent exercise if you have problems with joints in your
lower extremities. For other joint problems, bicycling and walking are good
Arthritis at Work
Have you ever felt you were too much in pain to perform your duties at work
due to your arthritis? If so, you are not alone. Many people all over the
country face that situation everyday. Some miss work because of it. Only you
know the activities that aggravate your arthritis. Pay attention and make note
of them. It’s possible that you can make simple adjustments to alleviate your
arthritis pain at work. Maybe you can rearrange your work space to prevent as
much lifting and reaching. It never hurts to take short breaks throughout the
day to simply stretch out your limbs. Also, don’t hesitate to talk to your
health care professional about your concerns. He may be able to give you some
suggestions to help make your work space more comfortable.
Whether you suffer from arthritis or not, these simple changes can make your
work day more pleasant.
Nearly 70 million people in the United States
are affected by arthritis or joint pain. More than two million are affected by
rheumatoid arthritis. That’s approximately 1% of the American population. The
disease is twice as common in women as in men. Usually it begins between the
ages of 30 to 50, although it can develop at any time. RA sufferers have a 70%
chance of developing joint damage within the first two years of the disease.
Twenty million people in the United States
are managing osteoarthritis at any given time. Eleven percent are in nursing
homes or similar institutions. Osteoarthritis usually begins in people when
they are in their late 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. It is rare that it affects anyone
younger. It is more common and more severe in women.
Managing Your Arthritis Pain
It’s important to work closely with your health care professional to find
out what steps are right for you. Generally, staying active and managing your
pain, along with a possible change in diet are good ways of alleviating your
discomfort. Your doctor may also suggest you see a physical therapist. If you
have severe symptoms, be sure to get plenty of rest. Having a set time to go to
bed and rise in the morning will help. Also, during the day, you may need to
relax for 15 minutes at a time to keep your pain under control. Be sure to plan
your day, pacing your activities so you won’t have too much to do at any one
Although rest is important, be sure not to rest too much. A comfortable
range of motion each day will help keep your arthritis in check as much as
possible. Solicit help with tasks that become too difficult, or delegate some
tasks to others. You may find that using special kitchen devices or using canes
or walkers will improve your mobility. Your physician may request you eat a
healthy diet. A healthy diet consists of a diet low in salt, cholesterol, and
saturated fats, and high in fiber and complex carbohydrates.
You’ll want to
make sure you get enough vitamin D and calcium as well. Also, if you are
overweight, losing weight may help alleviate your symptoms. Most of all, have
regular check ups, and follow your doctor’s advice in managing your symptoms.