Arthritis 101

arthritis

Arthritis is a term that is commonly used to describe over 100 different types of joint disorders. More than 20% of people have some form of the disorder. While anyone can be affected by some type or arthritis, it is more typical for seniors to be diagnosed with the disorder.

What is Arthritis?

Defining arthritis in simple terms can be difficult, because there are so many different types that can affect different parts of the body, in numerous different ways. But, to sum it up: arthritis is a disorder that causes degenerative joints. It can affect the fingers, knees, hips, feet, elbows, and more.

Types of Arthritis

Of the more than 100 types of arthritis, a few are more common than others. The most common is called osteoarthritis. It’s a type of arthritis that results from a breakdown of the cartilage in joints and the underlying bone. Typically, symptoms can include joint pain and stiffness. As the disorder begins, it will commonly manifest pain after excursion, but over time it may become common to suffer pain on a regular basis.

The second most common form of arthritis is called rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It’s a long-term autoimmune disorder that affects the joints. For the most part, RA affects the hands and wrists of both sides of the body. Although, it’s not too uncommon for RA to affect other parts of the body. This can often lead to even more serious problems, like low red blood cell count, inflammation around the heart, and inflammation around the lungs. Because RA affects the joints so severely, disfiguration of the hands and/or wrist can take place.

Some other common types of arthritis include lupus, septic arthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia. Each of these have different ways that they affect the person with the disorder.

Symptoms

The symptoms of the various forms of arthritis vary so greatly that only a doctor can accurately diagnose. For the most part, those experiencing severe joint pain or stiffness should speak with their doctor to see what the cause is.

Cold weather can affect arthritis, especially in areas like the hands and feet. It is recommended to wear warm gloves and socks to help keep warm and reduce the possible pain from the cold weather. Exercise and heavy use of the extremities can also make arthritis more painful. Sometimes those with arthritis may not even be able to use their hands because they become so stiff.

Symptoms are also more prevalent in the morning. The symptoms of arthritis can also make poor sleep quality, bring about weight loss, and an overall sense of fatigue.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for the two most common forms of arthritis, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. However, there are treatments available to help reduce the symptoms and help ease the pain of the sufferer.

The most common treatment is physical therapy. Exercising the joint may cause temporary pain, but in the long term it has been shown to help reduce pain. Physical therapy can also help improve the function of the joint, decrease pain, and delay and surgical intervention.

There are several types of medications that can help with the various forms of arthritis. Sometimes something as simple as prescription ibuprofen can help ease the pain. The further advanced the arthritis, typically the stronger the medications are prescribed to help combat the disorder.

Surgery is also an option in extreme cases. Although, studies have shown that surgery in seniors may help the arthritis, but could also create other problems that are more severe. Generally, doctors will opt for therapy or medication, with surgery an option in only the most intense cases.

Conclusion

If you suspect you have a form of arthritis, speaking with you medical professional is a good first step. Be well.

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Filed in Health Services Senior Health