Haims: Finding solutions to arthritis pain
Arthritis: If you’ve got it, you’re all too aware of how disabling can be. If you’ve heard about it or know people with it, but don’t really know much about it, read on. Arthritis is an inflammatory joint disease that affects people of all ages and sexes. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and there are many different causes and treatments.
Two of the most common types are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis often causes joints in the wrist, hands, and feet to become inflamed, swollen and stiff as a result of the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking cells in the joint lining. It’s an autoimmune disease that affects women more often than men.
While osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease, the exact cause is not known. Osteoarthritis is believed to occur because the body is unable to repair tissue within the joint as it breaks down from wear and tear, injury, obesity, and weak muscles.
Genetics are believed to play a role in both.
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Symptoms of arthritis
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis differ. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms typically begin slowly over time. Often, people start to notice stiffness, pain, and tenderness in their joints. Sometimes these symptoms present themselves for a while and then disappear. Unfortunately, once symptoms reappear, the frequency of recurrence often increases.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an insidious disease that can affect the entire body. Visual symptoms can frequently be seen in inflammation and/or deformation of the joints within the hand and feet. However, because it is an autoimmune disease, skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels may be affected.
Often symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include a general feeling of discomfort, uneasiness, and pain that are not specific to any one area. Tiredness, lack of energy and motivation, loss of appetite, and mild fever also can be warning signs.
Osteoarthritis has long been thought to occur due to the wearing down of joints over time. Thus, weight-bearing joints such as the neck, fingers, hips, lower back, knees, and feet are commonly affected.
Symptoms associated with osteoarthritis are pain and swelling when using the joints, stiffness, numbness, cracking and popping of the joints, and bone spurs often found on the spine and neck.
Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis differ. Rheumatoid arthritis is often clinically diagnosed by performing a thorough medical history, defining the location of joint pain, and learning about the duration of stiffness — particularly in the morning.
Frequently, when medical professionals believe that conditions present as rheumatoid arthritis, they will suggest running a complete blood count along with other laboratory tests that look at antibodies and biological markers.
Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is not diagnosed with blood testing. While medical providers may choose to draw fluid from the joints, this is often done to rule out other medical conditions and forms of arthritis.
Typically, when medical providers believe osteoarthritis is present, they can make a clinical diagnosis. For occasions of doubt, they may choose to have X-rays taken. In some cases, they may choose to have an MRI performed.
The first line of defense for both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are diets that help mitigate inflammation. Diets consisting of fruits, vegetables rich in antioxidants, fish, nuts, whole grains, beans, and lentils have shown to be helpful.
For rheumatoid arthritis, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve are helpful. Prescription NSAIDs like Humira, Celebrex, Mobic, Enbrel, Zorvolex, and Voltaren are available, however, many people encounter stomach irritation, ulcers and kidney problems with prolonged use. Unfortunately, some of these medicines are quite expensive. In some cases, monoclonal antibodies are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. These are laboratory-produced substances that bind to target specific molecules/proteins that cause inflammation.
Because osteoarthritis is characterized by wear and tear causing joint inflammation and joint degeneration, treatment differs from rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to acetaminophen and NSAIDs, physical and occupational therapies may be helpful. Such therapies may assist in strengthening muscles around the joints, increase flexibility, and teach you different ways of being gentler on your joints — think water therapy.
As with many health ailments, avoiding sugar-rich carbohydrates, salt, fried foods, white flour, and processed foods will help with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. There are many options for treating arthritis in general. Don’t wait too long before choosing to see a doctor — they can often guide you to a treatment that’s right for you.
If you want some advice or you’re seeking education before seeing a doctor, go see Kent or Eliza at the Vail Valley Pharmacy in Edwards. They are a great source for information and have many natural options available.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be contacted at www.visitingangels.com/comtns or by phone at 970-328-5526.
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