Responsible pain management.

Arthritis is a term used to describe joint disease, joint pain, or joint swelling. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. Arthritis affects people of all ages, sexes, and races, and is the leading cause of disability in the United States. According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. Women are diagnosed with arthritis more often than men, and it is more frequent in people over 65 years old.

The most common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion

The symptoms of arthritis range from mild to moderate to severe. Some people will go for years with mild symptoms, but they can progress and get worse over time. When someone has severe arthritis, it can cause chronic pain that impacts their ability to do regular daily activities including walking and climbing stairs. Permanent joint damage can also occur, some noticeable such as knobby fingers, others only visible by x-ray. Some types of arthritis can cause damage to internal organs such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys. It can also affect eyes, skin, joints, and joint tissues.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears away so that the bones rub against each other, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. As the disease progresses, strength in the joint is lost and pain becomes chronic. Some risk factors include age, family history, previous injury, and excess weight. Remaining active, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding injury and repetitive movements, all are preventative measures against osteoarthritis. Some treatments for managing the symptoms for mild to moderate symptoms include regular physical activity, hot and cold therapies, assistive devices, and over the counter pain relievers. Joint replacement may be necessary if symptoms become severe, causing limited mobility and affecting quality of life.

Another common type of arthritis is inflammatory arthritis. With inflammatory arthritis the immune system attacks the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion. The chronic inflammation can damage internal organs, eyes, and other parts of the body. Some types of inflammatory arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. With rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the most common inflammatory arthritis, the immune system attacks the joints, and the lining of the joint capsule (synovial membrane) becomes inflamed and swollen. As RA progresses, it will destroy cartilage and bone in the joint. Symptoms of RA include fatigue, loss of appetite, anemia, and mild fever. A combination of genetics and environmental factors can trigger autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory arthritis. For example, smoking is an environmental risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis in some people. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment can help to slow the progression of inflammatory arthritis. Treatment goals include reducing pain, improving function, and preventing further joint damage.

Infectious arthritis occurs when a bacterium, virus, or fungus enters the joint and trigger inflammation. There are a variety of organisms that can infect joints, such as food contamination like salmonella and shigella; sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia; and blood-to-blood infections like hepatitis C. Early treatment with antibiotics can stop joint infections, but sometimes arthritis will become chronic following an infectious arthritis episode.

Metabolic arthritis develops when uric acid builds up and deposits in the joints. Your body breaks down purines, a substance found in human cells and in several foods. Some people produce more uric acid than the body needs, or the body can’t get rid of it quickly enough when consumed or produced. When that happens, the uric acid builds up and forms crystals in the joints. This causes sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, known as a gout attack. Gout typically comes and goes as the uric acid builds up, causing chronic pain and disability.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of arthritis you should talk with your doctor to determine the accurate cause of your joint pain. Likely, you will be referred to a rheumatologist or orthopedist for an accurate diagnosis. Early treatment is crucial to preserve your joint function, mobility, and quality of life. While many treatments can slow the progression of arthritis, one of the most debilitating components of arthritis is chronic pain. Pain Stop Clinics are experts in responsible pain management. They will create a personalized treatment plan to help you control your arthritis pain.

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