Arthritis

Arthritis at a glance

  • Arthritis is a long-lasting inflammation of the joints that can lead to joint and tissue damage.
  • There are over 100 types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
  • Symptoms of arthritis can vary, but generally include swelling, pain, and stiffness in the affected joint.
  • Osteoarthritis can be caused by the wear-and-tear on joints that occurs with aging, obesity, and repetitive stress.
  • Causes of rheumatoid arthritis are still unknown although genetics may play a role.
  • Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood, which creates hard crystals in the big toe joint.
  • There are a number of treatment options that can help reduce pain and increase joint mobility. Treatment plans for arthritis include a combination of exercise, hot and/or cold compresses, joint braces, walking aids, medication, and, in some cases, surgery.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a long-lasting inflammation of the joints that can lead to joint and tissue damage. There are more than 100 types of arthritis that can affect different parts of the body, such as the ankle or hand & wrist.

Common types of arthritis treated at Muir Orthopaedic Specialists include:

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis, affecting nearly 27 million Americans. This disease occurs when the cartilage in a joint begins to break down or wear away with age or repetitive stress, causing pain and swelling from the bones rubbing together.

Causes of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is often caused by the normal wear-and-tear of aging, but can also be related to obesity, joint overuse, and injuries. People who already have rheumatoid arthritis are also more likely to develop osteoarthritis, as are those with a family history of the disease.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include soreness and stiffness when moving after being at rest, and bone enlargement in the finger joints.

Treatment of osteoarthritis

Self-care for osteoarthritis includes maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program, applying hot or cold compresses, using canes or other support devices, and taking medication to relieve the pain and swelling.

If necessary, a health care provider may recommend physical therapy, removing joint fluid, or injecting medication into the affected joint.

If other treatment options have not provided relief, surgery may be necessary.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes joints on both sides of the body (for example, both knees) to develop chronic redness, swelling, and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects hands, wrists, or knees, but also can impact the heart, lungs, blood, nerves, eyes, or skin.

While rheumatoid arthritis can affect children and the elderly, it most commonly develops in middle-age people, and about 75 percent of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are women.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis

Doctors have not yet determined what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Current theories suggest that exposure to bacteria or a virus may trigger the immune system to attack the joints. Although it is suspected that one or more genes may make people more susceptible to that immune response, more research is necessary.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms include stiffness, pain, and swelling in several joints. Fatigue, fever, and weight loss may also occur. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may be worse after periods of inactivity.

Some patients may develop rheumatoid nodules – firm bumps under the skin near the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis can develop quickly or occur more gradually over several years. For some people, the disease may go into remission for periods of time. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause joint deformities.

Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis includes medication to relieve pain and suppress the immune system.

In addition, people with rheumatoid arthritis may be advised to rest their joints during a flare-up, but remain physically active when the inflammation of the joints is lessened. This will help maintain the range of motion in the affected joints and to strengthen the muscles that support them.

Surgery may be necessary for severe joint damage or pain that cannot be controlled by medication.

Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by too much uric acid (UA) in the body, which can form hard crystals in joints.

Causes of gout

Factors that increase a person’s risk of developing gout include eating a diet heavy in chemicals called purines, found in meat and seafood. Drinking too much alcohol, taking diuretics, or being overweight can also lead to gout.

Symptoms of gout

A gout attack is characterized by sudden pain, redness, swelling, and stiffness, usually in the large joint of the big toe. Gout can also occur in the foot, ankle, or knee. Pain from an attack may last for several days or weeks.

It may be months or years before another attack occurs, but you should consult a health care provider even if the pain has gone away. Excess UA can cause damage to joints even without symptoms.

Treatment of gout

Treatment for gout includes medication and corticosteroid injections. Rest and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like Advil or Aleve can provide some pain relief. People with gout should not take aspirin, because it can raise UA levels, making the symptoms worse.

Dietary changes may also help manage gout, particularly lessening meat, seafood, and alcohol consumption.

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritisis a type of arthritis that can affect people with a skin condition called psoriasis. Five types of psoriatic arthritis exist, each with different characteristic symptoms.

Causes of psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In people with psoriasis, those who develop nail lesions have an increased likelihood of developing psoriatic arthritis.

Treatment of psoriatic arthritis

While there is currently no cure for psoriatic arthritis, treatment may include anti-inflammatory drugs or other types of medication to suppress the immune system.

Applying heat or ice may help reduce pain, as well as resting in between activities to combat fatigue. A healthy diet and low-impact exercise plan may also help reduce the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.

Septic arthritis

Septic arthritis is a bacterial or fungal infection that causes damage to a joint.

Causes of septic arthritis

Septic arthritis can occur if an infection in another part of the body travels through the bloodstream to a joint. It is also possible for surgery, injections, or puncture wounds to cause bacteria to enter a joint and cause septic arthritis.

Symptoms of septic arthritis

Symptoms of septic arthritis include severe pain and swelling. The affected joint may also be warm to the touch.

Children may experience extra symptoms including a general feeling of illness or discomfort, irritability, lack of appetite, and a fast heartbeat.

Treatment of septic arthritis

Treatment for septic arthritis includes antibiotics and draining the infected fluid inside the affected joint (synovial fluid).

Post-traumatic arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritisoccurs in a joint that has had a physical trauma or injury in the past.

Causes of post-traumatic arthritis

Injuries experienced during military service, sports, car accidents, or falls can damage the bone or cartilage in a joint, making it more likely to deteriorate. If a joint is re-injured, or if the patient is overweight, the joint and/or cartilage may wear out more quickly.

Symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis

Symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis typically include pain, swelling, difficulty using the affected joint, and the accumulation of fluid in the joint.

Treatment of post-traumatic arthritis

Self-care for post-traumatic arthritis includes anti-inflammatory medicine, weight loss, and low impact exercise.

In addition, a health care provider may recommend injections of cortisone or artificial joint fluid (Hylamers). If these measures do not provide relief, surgery to clean out, reconstruct, or replace the affected joint surfaces may be necessary.

Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own tissues and organs. Lupus causes inflammation throughout many systems in the body, including the brain, kidneys, joints, skin, heart, lungs, and blood cells.

Causes of lupus

In most cases, the cause of lupus is still unknown. Doctors believe that a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers can cause lupus to develop.

For some patients, exposure to sunlight can cause lupus skin lesions or other symptoms. Certain types of medication can also cause lupus to occur, but it usually goes away when the medication is discontinued.

Symptoms of lupus

Symptoms of lupus are often similar to those of other conditions or diseases. Like many forms of arthritis, lupus may cause flare-ups of symptoms that come and go. Lupus symptoms can develop over time or occur suddenly.

Common signs of lupus include:

  • A red, butterfly-shaped facial rash across the nose and cheeks
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Skin lesions with sun exposure
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue (Raynaud’s disease)
  • Memory loss and/or confusion
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chest pain and/or shortness of breath
  • Dry eyes

Treatment of lupus

Because the symptoms of lupus are different in each patient, consult with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you.

Common types of medication used to treat lupus include anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, immune suppressants, and antimalarial drugs. It may be necessary to adjust the dosage or type of medication as the symptoms evolve through flare-ups and remissions.

If you are experiencing pain associated with one of these forms of arthritis, contact us to request an appointment with our orthopedic specialists to learn about your treatment options.