Arthritis is one of the most common causes for joint aches and pains. In fact, about one in five people over the age of 18 have it, according to The Arthritis Foundation. As the Baby Boomers age, that number is only going to go up. It’s possible that as many as 78 million people could be affected by arthritis by 2040.
The word “arthritis” is a simple name for more than 100 joint diseases. As prevalent as it is, it’s important to know what arthritis is, the many forms it can take, and what can be done about it.
The most common form is osteoarthritis, or “wear-and-tear” arthritis. It happens when the cartilage in your joints wears down, causing the bones to rub against each other. This form of arthritis appears in known patterns in particular joints. Many people with this form of arthritis experience swollen joints, pain and stiffness. Often, maintaining a healthy diet and weight can help with arthritis pain. So can over-the-counter pain relievers, strengthening the affected joint, heat/ice and rest.
Inflammatory arthritis is another type. Psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis fall into this category. People with this form have an autoimmune disease where their bodies attack their joints, causing the lining to swell. Aching and stiffness are common, but because of the nature of inflammatory arthritis, some people can have organ damage. It’s important to stay up-to-date with your physician if you have inflammatory arthritis, so you can begin treatments and avoid as much joint damage as possible.
Other types of arthritis include infectious arthritis, which occurs when bacteria enter the body near the joint and cause inflammation. Many other conditions such as hepatitis C, food poisoning and some sexually transmitted diseases can bring on infectious arthritis. The good news is that with the right antibiotic, the infection can often clear up.
Metabolic arthritis occurs when the body can’t process all the uric acid it creates, causing it to build up in the joints. The fluid buildup can then turn to crystals inside the joint, causing extreme pain and even gout.
Whether or not your joints develop arthritis can also be attributed to any trauma or injury you sustain. A broken bone or a joint dislocation are the most common injuries that lead to arthritis.
Symptoms of arthritis can vary depending on the type and severity:
- the affected joint might feel warm
- you might feel grinding
- the joint might enlarge due to the ligaments stretching
- cysts might form in affected fingers
But don’t think an arthritis diagnosis means you have to live in pain that can’t be helped. Some people feel relief with over-the-counter medications, a diet rich in foods that are known to help reduce inflammation.
Your physician can prescribe physical therapy, help you find an appropriate activity level and talk to you about injections that may also offer respite from pain.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about all your options - including orthopedic surgery. There are many procedures available that can give you a reprieve from arthritis. Together, you can determine which is the best for your unique situation.
The future of orthopedics begins today at Beaumont. With specialists knowledgeable in both surgical and non-surgical treatments for hip, knee and shoulder pain, we can give you a multitude of options to meet your specific orthopedic needs. If you’re considering surgery, trust the specialists who perform more joint replacements than anyone else in Michigan.
Information provided by Jeffrey Carroll, D.O., Beaumont orthopedic surgeon.