Arthritis affects an estimated 50 million U.S. adults and continues to be the most common cause of disability in the United States. Arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe over 100 medical conditions and diseases, known as rheumatic diseases. Rheumatologists are physicians who are specifically trained to treat rheumatic diseases, and seeing a rheumatologist early after diagnosis of arthritis is your best defense against this disease.
The month of May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, an effort to spread the word about joint health, prevention, and treatment. It’s a condition that affects millions of Americans, both young and old. Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Don’t ignore those aches, pains, or stiffness in your joints. Yes, there are temporary causes–and solutions–for these issues, but it can also be a sign of arthritis.
Arthritis can also impact the mobility of your joints and can cause pain and disability. Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that first targets the lining of joints. Uric acid crystals, infections or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, can cause other types of arthritis.Treatments vary depending on the type of arthritis. The main goals of arthritis treatments are to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, your signs and symptoms may include:
- Decreased range of motion
The treatment of arthritis is very dependent on the precise type of arthritis present. An accurate diagnosis increases the chances for successful treatment. Treatments available include physical therapy, splinting, cold-pack application, paraffin wax dips, anti-inflammatory medications, pain medications (ranging from acetaminophen [Tylenol] to narcotics), immune-altering medications, and surgical operations.
The outlook for patients with arthritis depends on its severity, complications, and whether or not there are non-joint manifestations of the disease. For example, rheumatoid arthritis can affect the lungs, kidneys, eyes, etc. Chronic joint inflammation can lead to permanent damage to the joint and loss of joint function, making movement difficult or impossible. Since most forms of arthritis are inherited to some degree, there is no real way to prevent them. Arthritis that follows joint injury could be prevented by adhering to safety regulations and trying to avoid becoming injured.
The Arthritis Foundation is the only national voluntary health organization whose purpose is directed solely to all forms of arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation has national and international programs involving support for scientific research, public information and education for affected patients and their families, training of specialists, public awareness, and local community assistance. It is the ultimate goal of scientific arthritis research that optimal treatment programs are designed for each of the many form of arthritis. This field will continue to evolve as improvements develop in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and related conditions.