Recurring pain, swelling or warm feeling in your hand, elbow, knees or other joints might be more than soreness from overuse. It might be arthritis. Once thought of as an affliction to the elderly only, arthritis can affect people of all ages, genders, and races. We’ll navigate you through the ins and outs of this painful joint condition and how the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio assists patients from prevention to diagnosis and offers the best available treatment options personalized to your needs.

In this article, you will learn…

  1. What Arthritis Is
  2. Causes of Arthritis
  3. Symptoms
  4. Who It Affects
  5. Risk Factors
  6. How to Get Diagnosed
  7. Treatment Options
  8. Is Prevention Possible?
  9. How to Get Relief

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a common condition affecting millions of people around the world. It’s known as inflammation of one or more joints that causes various symptoms, including pain, stiffness and limited range of motion. Various types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout. 

It is a chronic, progressive disease with no cure, but proper management can control the symptoms. It is crucial to work with a healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan that considers the type of arthritis, severity of symptoms, and overall health. 

What Causes Arthritis?

Causes vary depending on the type of arthritis you’re dealing with. Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your body attacks the lining of the joints. Psoriatic arthritis occurs in people with psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin. A buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints is the root cause of gout.

Tell-tale Arthritis Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on which type of arthritis you have and which joints are most affected. The most common symptoms of arthritis are:

  • Pain in joints ranges from mild aches to severe, debilitating pain.
  • Stiffness is particularly noticeable in the morning or after sitting for a long time.
  • Limited range of motion, making it difficult to move your joint through its typical full range of motion.
  • Swelling in the affected joints can cause the joint to look more prominent than usual.
  • Tenderness and sensitivity to touch.
  • Warmth as a result of the inflammation.
  • Fatigue due to the chronic nature of the condition.
  • Depression. Sustained pain and reduced activity contribute to long-term sadness and depression.
  • Other symptoms, depending on the type of arthritis, can occur, such as rashes, fever, weight loss, and general malaise.

Who’s At Risk for Arthritis?

Arthritis can affect people of all ages, genders, and races. However, certain factors can increase the risk of developing arthritis, such as age, gender, genetics, obesity, joint injury, overuse, certain infections and autoimmune disorders.

  • Age: The risk of developing arthritis increases as people get older, particularly in people over the age of 60.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men.
  • Genetics: Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, have a genetic component, meaning that the risk of developing the disease is higher if there is a family history of the condition.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can put extra stress on weight-bearing joints, increasing the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Joint injury: People who have suffered a joint injury have a much higher risk of developing osteoarthritis, specifically in that joint.
  • Overuse: People who engage in repetitive motions or have a job that involves repetitive movements are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Certain infections: Lyme disease, for instance, can increase the risk of developing arthritis.
  • Autoimmune disorders: People with autoimmune conditions, such as lupus and psoriasis, are at a higher risk of developing arthritis.

Steps to Getting an Official Diagnosis

Diagnosis of arthritis typically involves a combination of a physical examination, medical history and diagnostic tests. These can include X-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), blood tests, joint fluid analysis or synovial biopsy.

Your diagnosis begins with a physical examination of the affected joint(s) to check for signs of inflammation, such as swelling, warmth, and tenderness. You will also be assessed for the range of motion in the joint(s) and any signs of deformity or instability.

Next, your doctor will gather information about your medical history and symptoms, including when they started, how severe they are, and how they affect daily activities. You’ll want to be prepared with knowledge of your family history of arthritis and any previous joint injuries.

You may now have an X-ray, which can show signs of osteoarthritis, such as bone spurs, loss of cartilage, and joint space narrowing. And you may require an MRI, which can provide detailed images of the soft tissue in the joint, including cartilage and ligaments. 

Blood tests can detect inflammation and rule out rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout. A joint fluid analysis may also be performed, where a fluid sample is taken from the affected joint and analyzed for signs of inflammation and infection. Additionally, a synovial biopsy, where a small piece of the synovium (the lining of the joint) is taken and analyzed for signs of inflammation, could be suggested for further diagnosis.

Getting Relief From Your Symptoms

While there’s no 100% cure for arthritis, several treatment options are available to help manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Work with an arthritis specialist to develop an individualized treatment plan that considers the type of arthritis, severity of symptoms, and overall health.

Several methods for relieving the symptoms of arthritis are:

  • Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, reduce pain and inflammation. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biological response modifiers can also slow down the progression of the disease.
  • Physical therapy can help improve joint range of motion and muscle strength and reduce pain.
  • Exercise: Regular exercises, such as walking, swimming, and cycling, can help to improve joint function and reduce pain.
  • Hot and cold therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected joint can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Assistive devices: Canes, walkers, and other assistive devices can help to reduce the stress on the affected joint and improve mobility.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can help individuals with arthritis learn how to perform daily activities with less pain and discomfort.
  • Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce the stress on the joints and slow down the progression of the disease.
  • Alternative therapies: Glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM are thought to help with symptoms of osteoarthritis, but more research is needed to confirm these effects.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be recommended to improve joint function and reduce pain.

When Is Surgery Needed?

Surgery is an option for some people with arthritis, particularly those with severe symptoms that have not responded to other treatment options. The type of surgery and the joint that is affected will determine the type of procedure.

Joint replacement surgery is a common procedure for people with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. In this procedure, the damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint (prosthesis). This can significantly reduce pain and improve joint function.

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure where your doctor inserts a tiny camera alongside surgical instruments into the joint through small incisions. This procedure can be used to repair or remove damaged tissue, such as cartilage or bone.

Synovectomy is a surgery to remove the synovial membrane, the joint’s lining that can become inflamed in certain kinds of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis. Joint fusion is a surgical procedure that combines two or more bones to prevent joint movement and relieve pain.

Surgery isn’t the right choice for everyone and is considered a last-resort option after other nonsurgical treatments have failed. It’s important to discuss all of this with your arthritis specialist and clearly understand the surgery’s risks, benefits and expected outcome before making a decision.

Other Issues From Arthritis

Arthritis can cause various complications, depending on the type and severity of your disease. Potential complications include:

  • Joint damage: Arthritis can cause damage to the cartilage, bones, and other tissues in the joint, leading to joint deformity, instability, and loss of function.
  • Chronic pain: Arthritis can cause chronic pain that can affect a person’s ability to perform daily activities and lead to sleep disturbances and depression.
  • Reduced mobility: Arthritis can cause stiffness and limited range of motion in the affected joints, making it challenging to move around and perform daily activities.
  • Fatigue: Arthritis can cause fatigue as a result of the chronic nature of the condition.
  • Depression and anxiety: Arthritis can negatively impact a person’s emotional well-being and lead to depression and anxiety.
  • Increased risk of falls: Arthritis can cause weakness and instability in the legs, increasing the risk of falling and resulting in injuries.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Studies have found that people with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, due to chronic inflammation.
  • Osteoporosis: People with arthritis may be at an increased risk of osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones, making them more prone to fractures.

Is Arthritis Prevention Possible?

While there’s no surefire way to prevent arthritis, you can take some measures to avoid developing the condition or to slow down its progression if you already have it. Not all arthritis can be prevented, and genetic factors or an unknown cause may cause some cases. However, taking care of yourself can help reduce the risk of developing the condition or slow its progression if you already have it. 

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese puts stress on weight-bearing joints, increasing the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Staying at a healthy weight helps reduce joint stress and slow down the progression of the disease.
  • Regular exercise can help improve joint function and muscle strength and reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Protecting joints: Avoiding high-impact sports and heavy lifting can help to reduce the risk of joint injury and osteoarthritis.
  • Avoid Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and can worsen osteoarthritis symptoms.
  • Good nutrition: Eating a healthy, balanced diet low in saturated fat but rich in vegetables and whole grains reduces inflammation and helps maintain a healthy weight.
  • Staying active: Even with arthritis, it is essential to keep active and maintain a healthy level of physical activity to improve joint function and reduce pain.
  • Manage medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders, are at a higher risk of developing arthritis. Managing these conditions can help to reduce the risk of developing arthritis.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of arthritis, it is vital to see a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Avoiding Treatment Is Not Advised

If arthritis is left untreated, it can lead to several complications. The joint pain and stiffness can become more severe over time, making it difficult to perform everyday activities. This can lead to loss of mobility and an overall decline in physical function.

Untreated arthritis can also cause damage to the joints, leading to deformities and instability. This can cause chronic pain and a decrease in quality of life. In addition, untreated arthritis can lead to a loss of muscle strength and mass, further limiting mobility and increasing the risk of falls and injuries.

Arthritis can also affect mental health, leading to feelings of depression and anxiety. Social isolation and a lack of physical activity can also lead to a decline in overall health and well-being. In its advanced stages, arthritis can lead to permanent joint damage, requiring joint replacement surgery or other invasive procedures. Seek treatment for arthritis as soon as symptoms appear to manage the condition and prevent complications from developing.

Ohio Arthritis Care – Stop Living With Pain

At the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio, our experienced physicians offer patients an early diagnosis and a personalized arthritis treatment plan to help them get back to living a normal, pain-free life. We offer a comprehensive range of arthritis treatment options, from nonsurgical therapies to surgical joint replacements. We tailor each treatment plan to the individual patient’s personal goals.

Contact the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio office closest to you to schedule an appointment for your consultation and to get started feeling better and living a fuller life!