Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are all signs of arthritis, which occurs when the joints become inflamed – making everyday activities suddenly a lot more difficult.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have been diagnosed with some type of arthritis. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. It’s the leading cause of disability in America and can affect people of any age.
The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, underlying diseases may also result in different types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the leading type of arthritis in Americans, affecting over 3 million people each year. It is a wear-and-tear issue that causes protective tissue at the ends of bones to become thin and weak. Most people over 60 end up developing some degree of OA, but it can also affect patients as young as 20 when underlying conditions are present.
Obesity, injury and overuse are known causes of OA. Symptoms include joint stiffness, pain and swelling. Symptoms usually occur early in the morning or when someone engages in physical activity after a period of rest. That’s why it’s important to take notice of when and where the pain is occurring before visiting the doctor.
OA symptoms are known to worsen over time, so it’s important to have it addressed as soon as possible.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
About 1.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. While it can affect anyone, women have been shown to have a higher chance of developing RA, as well as individuals aged 30 to 50.
RA typically is a result of a weakened immune system. Instead of properly healing the body from viruses and bacteria, the immune system overacts and attacks the joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Symptoms lasting longer than 30 minutes at a time should be examined by a doctor.
If left unaddressed, RA can severely and even permanently damage joints.
Continuous joint pain lasting four to six weeks warrants a visit to the doctor. He or she will take your medical history and do a physical examination to determine if you have arthritis and which type it is.
Those thought to have RA are ordered additional testing and x-rays and referred to a rheumatologist who will conduct further evaluations. Early diagnosis is crucial for those with RA.
While there is no cure for arthritis, there are ways to manage symptoms and return to a normal, active life.
Arthritis treatment typically consists of increased activity, weight management, medication, steroid injections and in some cases, joint replacement surgery. In the last two decades, medicine has made great advancements in its ability to treat arthritis.
It’s important for patients to pay attention to their bodies and any chronic pain. Visiting the doctor sooner rather than later can help you avoid permanent damage to your joints.
UCF Health provides primary care and specialized rheumatology care for patients with arthritis.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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