At Phoenix Family Medical Clinic, our providers work with arthritis patients to minimize their suffering and help them lead normal pain free lives. Treatment of arthritis is a process that is over a long term period and our providers design plans to address this.
What is arthritis? What causes arthritis?
Arthritis is a joint disorder featuring inflammation. A joint is an area of the body where two different bones meet. A joint functions to move the body parts connected by its bones. Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis is frequently accompanied by joint pain. Joint pain is referred to as arthralgia.
There are many types of arthritis (over 100 identified, and the number is growing). The types range from those related to wear and tear of cartilage (such as osteoarthritis) to those associated with inflammation resulting from an overactive immune system (such as rheumatoid arthritis). Together, the many types of arthritis make up the most common chronic illness in the United States.
The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. Causes include injury (leading to osteoarthritis), metabolic abnormalities (such as gout and pseudogout), hereditary factors, the direct and indirect effect of infections (bacterial and viral), and a misdirected immune system with autoimmunity (such as in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus).
Arthritis is classified as one of the rheumatic diseases. These are conditions that are different individual illnesses, with differing features, treatments, complications, and prognoses. They are similar in that they have a tendency to affect the joints, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons, and many have the potential to affect other internal body areas.
What are arthritis symptoms and signs?
Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints. Inflammation of the joints from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth. Tenderness of the inflamed joint can be present.
Many of the forms of arthritis, because they are rheumatic diseases, can cause symptoms affecting various organs of the body that do not directly involve the joints. Therefore, symptoms in some patients with certain forms of arthritis can also include fever, gland swelling (swollen lymph nodes), weight loss, fatigue, feeling unwell, and even symptoms from abnormalities of organs such as the lungs, heart, or kidneys.
Who is affected by arthritis?
Arthritis sufferers include men and women, children and adults. Approximately 350 million people worldwide have arthritis. Nearly 40 million people in the United States are affected by arthritis, including over 250,000 children!
More than 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis. Approximately 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. More than half of those with arthritis are under 65 years of age. Nearly 60% of Americans with arthritis are women.
The goal of the providers at Phoenix Family Medical Clinic is to reduce pain, improve function, and prevent further joint damage. The underlying cause cannot usually be cured. Our providers take a multi-pronged including life style changes, exercise, over the counter and prescription medication.
Lifestyle changes are the preferred treatment for osteoarthritis and other types of joint inflammation. Exercise can help relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength. Your health care team can help you design an exercise program that is best for you.
Exercise programs may include:
- Low-impact aerobic activity (also called endurance exercise)
- Range of motion exercises for flexibility
- Strength training for muscle tone
Physical therapy may be recommended. This might include:
- Heat or ice
- Splints or orthotics to support joints and help improve their position; this is often needed for rheumatoid arthritis
- Water therapy
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night and taking naps during the day can help you recover from a flare-up more quickly and may even help prevent flare ups.
- Avoid staying in one position for too long.
- Avoid positions or movements that place extra stress on your sore joints.
- Change your home to make activities easier. For example, install grab bars in the shower, the tub, and near the toilet.
- Try stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
- Eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, which contain important vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, and herring), flaxseed, rapeseed (canola) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
- Apply capsaicin cream over your painful joints. You may feel improvement after applying the cream for 3-7 days.
- Lose weight, if you are overweight. Weight loss can greatly improve joint pain in the legs and feet.
Medications may be prescribed along with lifestyle changes. All medications have risks, some more than others. It is important that you are closely monitored by a doctor when taking arthritis medications.
Generally, over-the-counter medications are recommended first:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is usually tried first. Take up to 4 grams a day (two arthritis-strength Tylenol every 8 hours). Do not take more than the recommended dose or take the drug along with a lot of alcohol. Doing so may damage your your liver.
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can relieve arthritis pain. However, they have many potential risks, especially if used for a long time. Potential side effects include heart attack, stroke, stomach ulcers, bleeding from the digestive tract, and kidney damage.
If stronger medications are needed our providers will prescribe Prescription medicines.
It is very important to take your medications as directed by your provider or. If you are having difficulty doing so (for example, because of side effects), you should talk to your doctor. Also make sure your doctor knows about all the medicines you are taking, including vitamins and supplements bought without a prescription.
SURGERY AND OTHER TREATMENTS
In some cases, surgery may be done if other treatments have not worked. This may include:
- Arthroplasty to rebuild the joint
- Joint replacement, such as a total knee joint replacement