Did you know the most common disease in the world is arthritis? In fact, with more than 100 different types of arthritis, nearly everyone over the age of sixty-five has some form of the disease. What exactly is arthritis though? How does one get it and what can you do to treat it? We will explore these questions in hopes of gaining a stronger knowledge of this disease.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes cartilage around joints to break down, ultimately leading to the bones rubbing together. When participating in strenuous activity those affected by osteoarthritis will experience pain in their joints. The next morning, stiff joints are a commonly experienced symptom. For those feeling stiff, a warm shower or bath is suggested in the morning to relax the joints. Many sanford physicians also recommend acetaminophen or NSAIDs such as aspirin or ibuprofen to help with pain. Ibuprofen is also helpful in reducing inflammation as seen with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Other treatments such as cortisone injections, hyaluronate injections, and surgery are options, but are mostly reserved for those with severe pain or badly damaged joints.
Types of inflammatory arthritis, like RA, case the bodyâ€™s immune system to attack its own tissue rather than bacteria, like itâ€™s supposed to. This causes swollen, red, warm, painful, and stiff joints. Often RA is more debilitating than Osteoarthritis because it causes joints to deform over time. Other symptoms of inflammatory arthritis include weight loss, fever, and fatigue. RA responds best to drugs that alter the immune system since thatâ€™s where the problem stems from. In order to reduce swelling, try placing a cold compress to the inflamed area.
For the most part, it is difficult to prevent arthritis in the first place. In fact, over half of your risk for osteoarthritis is determined by your genetics. However, losing weight or maintaining a healthy diet can help lower your risk since less weight puts less pressure on joints. Avoiding foods high in purines such as anchovies, nuts, and organ meats can also reduce your risk of arthritis. Repeated joint injuries and strenuous activity on the job can increase your risk of developing arthritis as well. RA is more common in men than women and will likely onset in middle age. In general, arthritis develops in men over the age of 45 and women over age 55.
There are ways to ease arthritis symptoms aside from heat or cold too. Exercising regularly keeps your joints moving and helps with arthritis symptoms. However, sometimes this can cause symptoms to worsen. If you feel more pain than usual, itâ€™s best to rest your joints, but donâ€™t stay in the same position for too long. Keeping your joints moving will help prevent most symptoms from worsening.
Our sanford doctors strive to educate the public about their health and hope this arthritis information has been helpful to you and your loved ones. To learn more about arthritis, visit the Patient Education Center of Harvard Medical School.
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