Arthritis may feel like an inevitable condition, something that everyone simply experiences as they get older, but this isn’t necessarily the case. When it does strike, you may feel frustrated or depressed by having a difficult time performing routine tasks that used to be easy. Fortunately, treatment options may provide the relief you need. Let us help you understand more about this common condition.
What Exactly Is Arthritis?
The term is actually a bit of a catch-all for any inflammation in a joint, and it can refer to any of a number of different arthritic conditions, which include:
- Osteoarthritis – This is the most common form, the “wear and tear” variety that stems from cartilage breakdown in the joints. The bones that comprise a joint are covered at the ends with a hard, slippery tissue (cartilage) that assists with movement. When the tissue breaks down, the resulting situation is similar to an unoiled hinge.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – Instead of your body breaking down over time, this is a matter of your body actually attacking itself. In this autoimmune disorder mistakes the lining of your joints for an internal threat and degrades and destroys it.
- Post-traumatic arthritis – This arthritic condition develops following a dislocation or fracture, particularly when a joint becomes injured. It may take years for symptoms to emerge and it doesn’t matter whether the injury was properly treated or not: hormones secreted within the body are what ultimately cause it.
- Gout – Unlike the other variations, this complex form is affected by your diet. It happens when there is an accumulation of urate crystals in one of your joints, often where the big toe meets the foot. Certain foods contain substances known as purines, and when your body breaks them down, the resulting byproduct is uric acid. This acid is typically dissolved and passed through your kidneys, but if your body produces too much, it can build up and form those urate crystals.
The symptoms of the various forms of arthritis are pretty consistent. Generally, you can expect to feel stiffness, swelling, diminished range of motion, and even pain. If you aren’t active on a regular basis, these are more likely to be experienced when you move the affected joints.
With regard to gout, you will typically experience the symptoms at night, including intense joint pain, inflammation, and redness. The discomfort that accompanies an attack can linger up to a few weeks afterwards and joint mobility often decreases as the gout progresses.
Arthritis can potentially happen to anyone, but there are certain factors that make it more likely to develop the condition, including age, gender, heredity, injury, and obesity. It probably comes as no surprise to hear that older people are more susceptible, but women are predisposed to develop the rheumatoid variety and men are more prone to having gout. Whether male or female, extra weight increases the stress on your joints, which ups the risk for this condition.
Family history and injury are two factors that increase your risk of having an arthritic condition. If your siblings or parents have (or had) one of these ailments, there is a decent chance you will too. Joint injuries, whether from sports or accidents, also make it more likely that you have trouble with the affected joint later on.
Arthritis treatment is centered on reducing pain and improving mobility in affected joints. Although the disease can make movement difficult, physical therapy can help and is a good place to begin treatment. The appropriate exercises can strengthen muscles that surround and support joints, while also improving range of motion.
There are a variety of medications that we will either recommend or prescribe to assist with your condition. Some of these include analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, and corticosteroids.
If conservative treatment is ineffective, we may recommend either joint fusion or replacement.
Don’t let the pain and discomfort that accompanies arthritis make your life more difficult than it needs to be – call us today! Simply dial (540) 904-1458 for our Roanoke, VA office to request your appointment at Shenandoah Podiatry.