Arthritis Types and Treatments
As the body ages, joints naturally become less flexible over time. Occasional aches or pain in joints are perfectly normal. Pain and stiffness that occurs regularly or does not go away may indicate the development of arthritis. Arthritis refers to a group of diseases and conditions which affect the joints and surrounding tissue within the body. Joints and tissues may become inflamed, or pain may stem from the gradual wear of cartilage between joints. Knees, hands, and hips are all common places for people to develop arthritis. Arthritis most often affects older people, but can occur in people of all ages – even children! Some types of arthritis are more common than others.
Common Types of Arthritis
Everyone’s pain tolerance is different, as well as the severity of their arthritis. Some people may live for years before a diagnosis. Others may need to seek treatment more quickly.
The most common types of arthritis include:
- Osteoarthritis: Also known as ‘degenerative joint disease’. Osteoarthritis is a very common form of arthritis which occurs when the cartilage between bones wears down. As a result, the joint becomes inflamed, stiff and painful.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks itself. Rheumatoid arthritis is one type of autoimmune disease; the immune system attacks joints, causing pain and inflammation.
- Juvenille Arthritis: While arthritis is usually associated with older people, children can develop arthritis too. These cases are also known as juvenile rheumatic disease. Juvenile arthritis is not a condition in itself, but refers to a larger group of conditions which can affect children under the age of 16.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: Psoriasis is an immune system disease which causes scaly, itchy, usually red rashes. Some people with this condition may develop psoriatic arthritis, which can manifest not only in joint pain and stiffness, but changes in the nail, swelling and tenderness in the hands and feet, eye problems, and more. Psoriatic arthritis can sometimes occur in people who do not have psoriasis, but have relatives with psoriasis.
- Gout: This type of inflammatory arthritis typically affects the ankle, knee, and foot. Pain may be episodic, and include tenderness and redness in addition to swelling. Gout is caused by a very high level of uric acid in the blood, and usually affects more men than women.
Treatments and Self-Care
Arthritis treatments usually focus on reducing pain, improving mobility, and positively influencing quality of life. Most treatments will involve a combination of medication and physical therapy.
Medication may include either one or a combination of anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, counterirritants, analgesics, and others. The medications used will depend on the type of arthritis.
Having extra weight can put extra strain and pressure on joints and muscles, exacerbating pain and inflammation. Losing and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the strain on your joints.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery. Sometimes, joint repair can be performed to improve movement and reduce pain. Joint replacement, which usually takes place for hips and knees, replaces the old joint with an artificial one.
Tai chi, yoga, herbal supplements, and acupuncture are just a few of the alternative treatment options available. Remember to always consult your doctor before starting an alternative medicine regimen.
Exercise and Physical Therapy
Although it may sound counterproductive to exercise while in pain, it’s important to move, even if this means a short walk around the house or a longer stroll to the park. Exercise will help reduce the stiffness that you may feel. However, it’s important to avoid high-impact sports such as running, tennis and football. Choose low-impact activities such as walking or swimming. Use an ice pack to reduce inflammation after your exercise, or take a hot bath or shower to let muscles relax.
There are many good reasons to stop smoking, and arthritis is one of them! Smoking can cause unnecessary stress on your muscles and connective tissues, which worsens pain.
Most people will need to try a few different combinations of therapies before finding the one that works for them.
Arthritis Treatment at Florida Medical Clinic
Occasional pain and stiffness are normal as we age. Persistent pain, especially when this pain is affecting your daily life, is not normal. Florida Medical Clinic’s Rheumatology Department offers consultations, diagnosis, treatment, and therapy options for patients. Make an appointment today.