Arthritis: The Basics
What you need to know to prevent, treat and manage one of America's most common diseases.
Achy, swollen joints are common, especially with age, but how do you know if it’s caused by arthritis? The Arthritis Foundation predicts that the rate of doctor-diagnosed arthritis cases will skyrocket as the nation's largest generation ages.
What causes arthritis? Arthritis is an inflammatory disease of the joints, resulting in a deterioration of the cartilage that acts as a cushion around joints. Though everyone suffers from joint pain from time to time, there are 100 different types of arthritis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Affecting only one joint or several joints, arthritis can be a debilitating disease if not diagnosed and managed properly.
Watch for these symptoms. The most common symptom of arthritis is pain and stiffness in one or more of your joints. In some types of arthritis, this may be accompanied by swelling around the joint or red, inflamed skin. You may notice that joint pain gets worse during barometric changes, after exercise or in injured areas. Talking to a physician early about painful joints can give you enough time to come up with a treatment and prevention plan that works for you.
Know your treatment options. Keeping joints active is the best way to prevent arthritis from restricting your mobility. Though it may be painful, developing a low-impact exercise routine can keep joints healthy without causing further damage. Also, over-the-counter medications including topical pain relieving creams and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help treat inflammation that causes joint pain. In addition, several prescription drugs can help manage arthritis symptoms. For severe cases of arthritis, joints may need to be replaced. You can find more information on joint replacement treatments at the Arthritis Foundation’s Surgery Center at http://www.arthritis.org/surgery-center.php.
Ways to prevent arthritis. In the past decade, there have been several medical advances in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis. Though doctors can’t determine what type of arthritis you have or how severe your particular case will be, they can help you identify some prevention techniques to help slow the progression of the disease. Eating a balanced diet, exercising and losing weight can relieve sore joins and reduce the wear and tear on the cartilage that protects joints. Also, consider talking to your doctor about medications and supplements, like glucosamine or fish oil, that can help protect joints. Note, however, that gouty arthritis reacts negatively to fish and fish oils, so consult your physician before taking any supplements.