Did you know that close to 45% of Americans deal with doctor-diagnosed arthritis? This condition affects many people and can limit their usual activities if not treated properly. That’s why it’s important to visit a doctor at the onset of arthritis symptoms to get a professional opinion on what’s happening.
Curious about arthritis and the kinds of arthritis that exist? In this article, we’re covering everything you need to know about arthritis, from what it is to how to treat it.
What Is Arthritis and What Kinds of Arthritis Exist?
Arthritis is a condition describing the inflammation of one or more joints. It’s most commonly seen in elderly people over the age of 65, but children, teenagers, and young adults can also develop it. And while there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, the two most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and it affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the cartilage protecting your bones wears away over time. This damage can impact multiple areas of your body but is most common around the joints in your hands, hips, knees, and spine.
Certain people are more predisposed to develop osteoarthritis than others. Older people, especially older women, are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, as well as people struggling with obesity. Genetics, joint injuries, and bone deformities also put you at greater risk.
Osteoarthritis symptoms appear gradually and can often worsen over time. Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, and tenderness in your joints, loss of flexibility, and bone spurs. Joint pain and stiffness can become so severe that it can actually prevent you from successfully completing everyday tasks.
How to Treat Osteoarthritis
While you can’t really reverse the effects of osteoarthritis, there are ways to treat it. The first thing you should do is try to increase your calcium intake to around 1,200 milligrams per day. You can get this extra calcium from foods like tofu, leafy greens, and yogurt as well as supplements.
Also, try to avoid foods high in phosphorus such as red meats and soft drinks, as these can promote bone loss. Try to exercise more frequently if possible, and do weight-bearing exercises like running, walking, and weight lifting as this will help your bone density.
You should also talk to your doctor about any potential medication options like:
- Alendronate (Bonosto, Fosamax)
- Ibandronate (Boniva)
- Zoledronic acid (Reclast, Zometa)
Your doctor should know what medication is in your best interest, so talk to them before taking anything.
Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can affect more than just your joints. This type of arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder. It can damage many parts of your body including your skin, eyes, blood vessels and body systems.
Rheumatoid arthritis happens when your immune system attacks your body tissues by mistake. This kind of arthritis attacks the lining of your jones, which results in painful swelling, bone erosion, and joint deformity. The main symptoms of this kind of arthritis include tender swollen joints, joint stiffness, fatigue, and weight loss.
Like osteoarthritis, some people are at greater risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, especially those between the ages of 40 and 60.
The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis vary in severity and ebb and flow. Often times, people can experience both flares and period of remission. Things like obesity, family history, smoking, and even environmental exposures can make people more susceptible.
How to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
While there is no way to cure rheumatoid arthritis, there are ways to stop the inflammation, relieve symptoms, and improve your overall health and wellbeing. The first thing to do is implement an early and aggressive treatment strategy to reduce inflammation. Then work with your doctor to achieve remission, meaning no signs of active inflammation.
There are also medications available for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. These medications generally ease the symptoms of the condition and work to delay or stop the structural damage.
Drugs like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help ease the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Corticosteroids can also slow down disease activity and make your arthritis more manageable.
Things You Need to Know About Arthritis
Now that we’ve covered the two most common arthritis treatments, you’re probably wondering if there are any other best practices you should know about. Here are some major tips and things you should know in order to treat arthritis effectively.
Diagnosis Means Everything
When it comes to arthritis, people tend to self-treat before talking with a doctor, which makes them more likely to treat it the wrong way. With so many types of arthritis, it can be hard to know which kind someone has without a proper diagnosis. Knowing which type you have is key for creating an early and aggressive treatment plan to bring arthritis under control.
You Should Visit a Rheumatologist
If you’re experiencing arthritis symptoms, you should visit with your primary care doctor. But you should also know that you’ll need to consult with a rheumatologist to learn more about the specifics of arthritis. A rheumatologist will evaluate you, determine if you have arthritis, and if so, what kind, and help you start a treatment plan.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices Can Help with Symptoms
While arthritis isn’t curable, there are ways of treating and alleviating your symptoms outside of medicine. By doing regular exercise, avoiding smoking, and reducing the stress in your life, you can better cope with arthritis. High-quality sleep is also important for dealing with arthritis effectively.
Finding the Right Treatment Takes Time
If you or a loved one has arthritis, you should know that finding the right medications and treatments take time. People vary in their response to different types of medications and treatments, and what works for one person may not work for another. Finding the safest and most effective treatment will take time, but if you consult with a doctor they can help you find the right option faster.
Final Thoughts on Arthritis
Arthritis isn’t curable, but it can be dealt with if you approach it in the right way. By studying up on the different kinds of arthritis, you can know the ins-and-outs of the kinds of arthritis and the ways in which you can treat it.
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