BHealthy Blog

All About Arthritis

With an estimated 54 million adults in the U.S. living with an arthritis diagnosis, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are important to understand. Read on to learn more about common types of arthritis, your risk for developing the disease and the treatment options available.

Symptoms

Stiffness

Pain

Redness

Swelling

Tenderness

Decreased Range of Motion

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis occurs when joint cartilage, the slick coating on the end of your bones that helps your joint glide smoothly, is damaged. There are two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and is the result of wear-and-tear to your joint’s cartilage. Eventually, enough damage can occur to the cartilage that bone is grinding on bone, resulting in painful, restricted movement. Osteoarthritis can develop due to general use over time, or it can be onset by an injury or infection.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of your joint capsule. The lining then becomes inflamed and swollen, which eventually damages both cartilage and bone, causing joint deformities. Rheumatoid arthritis often first affects smaller joints in the hands and feet, then spreads to larger joints. Eventually, the condition can spread to non-joint tissue, such as skin, eyes, heart, lungs and more.

Risk Factors

Family History

A history of arthritis in your family increases your risk of developing the disease.

Age

Your risk for arthritis increases with age.

Genetic Sex

Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men, while men are more likely to develop gout, another form of arthritis.

Injury

Once a joint is injured, it is at a higher risk for developing arthritis.

Obesity

Excess weight puts substantial pressure on joints, increasing the risk of arthritis.

Treatment

Because each case of arthritis affects each individual differently, there are a wide array of treatment options available to help alleviate pain and restore as much joint function as possible. Arthritis may be treated with any combination of medications, therapies or surgeries.

Medication to Treat Arthritis

Many people with arthritis take medication, but the type widely varies based on the individual case. Common types of medication include: 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Used to reduce both pain and inflammation, common NSAIDs include over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, as well as prescription-strength options.

Analgesics

Analgesics reduce pain, but have no effect on inflammation. Commonly used analgesics range from acetaminophen (Tylenol) to oxycodone or hydrocodone.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids, which includes both prednisone and cortisone, reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system by being taken orally or injected directly into the painful joint.

Counterirritants

Counterirritants come in a cream or ointment form, and contain menthol or capsaicin that, when rubbed directly onto the painful joint, interfere with the transmission of pain signals.

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

DMARDs, which include methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine, prevent your immune system from attacking your joints, and are most commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Biological Response Modifiers

Biological response modifiers, such as etanercept and infliximab, target protein molecules involved in your body’s immune response, and are often used to treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis alongside DMARDs.

Therapy

Regular physical therapy can help alleviate symptoms of arthritis by improving range of motion within a joint while also strengthening the muscles surrounding it.

Surgery

If medication and physical therapy don’t adequately address a patient’s symptoms, surgery may be necessary. Common arthritis surgeries include:

Joint Repair

A joint repair smooths or realigns the joints to reduce pain and restore range of motion. 

Joint Replacement

During a joint replacement, a joint is removed and an artificial one is put in its place.

Joint Fusion

Typically performed on smaller joints, a joint fusion locks two bones together.

Arthritis may be common, but at Baptist Health, we have the physicians, treatments and resources to help countless Arkansans find relief. If you think you’re struggling with symptoms of arthritis, request an appointment with one of our experts.

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