Arthritis is more than just stiff and painful joints; it is a condition.
There are a few different types of arthritis, and the most common are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Each one has its own set of symptoms. Arthritis can have chronic symptoms that continue for long periods of time and might never go away. There are treatments for arthritis sufferers. Treatments might not completely eliminate symptoms but can provide relief so that you can continue to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Most of the adult population suffers from arthritis because it is a common disease in the United States. Up to half of all adults over the age of 65 are affected by arthritis.
Common Arthritis Symptoms
- Continuous joint pain
- Swelling of joints
- Joint stiffness
- Joints that are tender or painful to touch
- Difficulty with normal joint movement
- A joint that is red and warm to the touch
Schedule a time to see your doctor if symptoms persist for over two weeks. Your doctor might refer you to a rheumatologist if symptoms prove to be unmanageable. You should meet with your doctor sooner if you experience a sudden fever, joints that have become swollen very quickly, feel ill, or if using your joints has become virtually impossible. Your physician will want to physically examine you and run lab tests in order to create a successful treatment plan.
What is OSTEOARTHRITIS(OA)?
Seniors are more commonly diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Cartilage is the tissue that protects joints. It acts like a pad between joints in order to protect bones from rubbing together. OA breaks down the cartilage that protects our joints. Over time OA can completely destroy all the cartilage in the affected joint. When the cartilage is gone it leaves bones with no protective barriers, causing bones to rub and bounce against one another leading to intense pain. Commonly affected joints are the lower back, neck, hands, hips, and knees.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
- Stiffness in joints
- Moderate pain when walking or bending
- Intense pain in joints even when resting or sleeping.
- Joint Stiffness after sitting still for long periods of time but is relieved once you start moving
Overtime OA can make moving joints extremely difficult, making it feel nearly impossible to use your hips, knees, or back.
- Genetics- specifically those affected in their hips or hands
- Overweight – knees and hips can be overworked when caring for extra weight. The added pressure can intensify symptoms.
- Injuries to hips, hands, or knees – overworking these joints can cause further damage and aggravate symptoms.
What is RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS(RA)?
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a type of autoimmune disease. Our immune system protects us from the stuff that makes us sick and helps us heal from illness. Autoimmune diseases trigger our immune system to essentially turn on itself, attacking our own body tissues.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Inflammation in joints which causes pain
- Joint swelling
- Joint stiffness that lasts for extended amounts of time.
- More than one joint is affected.
- Unable to use the joint
- Feeling sick –exhausted, or have a fever.
Shoulders, fingers, knees, elbows, wrists, feet, hips, neck, and ankles are potential targets for RA. It can attack nearly every joint in our body. If a joint on the left side of the body is affected, the same joint on the right will also be affected. Rheumatoid Arthritis destroys more than our joints. It can damage the nervous system, blood vessels, eyes, muscles, and organs like the heart. Those most commonly affected are of all ages and women.
Different types of arthritis require different types of treatments. There are ways to improve symptoms that do not require medication and can be helpful for any arthritis patient.
- Adequate Rest
- Regular Exercise – can improve joint mobility and strengthen muscles. Stronger muscles provide support around joints which helps reduce pain.
- Managing a healthy and balanced diet
- Losing or maintaining a healthy weight
- Icing or applying heat
- Finding supportive shoes and using the proper cane
- Swimming or soaking in warm water
- Invest in tools to help open jars and turn door handles
Sometimes medication is needed to alleviate arthritis swelling and pain. Most commonly used is acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). These are conveniently sold without a prescription. With any medication, use caution and remember to read the labels. If you take acetaminophen or ibuprofen regularly, you should consult your doctor to ensure you’re consuming the medication safely.
If over-the-counter medications have stopped providing relief your physicians might prescribe an anti-rheumatic drug. These types of drugs can gradually reduce the damage that arthritis has caused. Anti-rheumatic medications can take a while before a patient feels relief, so doctors will prescribe a corticosteroid such as prednisone. Corticosteroids reduce swelling and pain.
When oral medication is no longer effective, your doctor might suggest a cortisone shot delivered directly into the joint. Typically, the knee. Almost immediately, patients can experience pain relief and regain movement. In severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be required.
Working with your doctor to develop a treatment plan and practicing healthy lifestyle habits will deliver the best results. Joint swelling, damage, and pain can be managed or even eliminated. Arthritis affects everyone differently; finding what works best for you will take practice.
Share your experience with family and friends. Arthritis shouldn’t take away the things your love. You can still have an active and social life while managing arthritis.