Arthritis – What a Pain!

Posted on: May 11th, 2022 by Jacqueline Kannan, MD

Jacqueline Kannan, MD

You know that feeling, right? The feeling that you’ve turned to stone as you get up from the couch. The painful feelings in your hand that comes on suddenly, seemingly for no reason. The grating feeling you have in your knee joint when you bend your knee. If you’re like most people when you experience symptoms like that you immediately think – arthritis. And you might be right. But what kind of arthritis? Did you know there are more than 100 types? And, according to the CDC, 58.5 million people in the United States have arthritis. It is a leading cause of work disability, with annual costs for medical care and lost earnings of $303.5 billion.

Here, we will focus on the five most common types of arthritis, their symptoms, and what you can – and – should do if you recognize any of these symptoms.

Number 1 – Osteoarthritis

Let’s start with the most common form of arthritis: Osteoarthritis. Nearly 80 percent of adults aged 55 and older have evidence of osteoarthritis. This type is caused by the natural joint wear and tear that comes with age. It’s also common among people who are overweight due to the pressure extra pounds put on their joints. The cartilage between the joints gets squeezed from the pressure of the weight and begins to wear away, making bending, walking, or even getting up from the couch extremely painful.

You may have Osteoarthritis If you:
▪ Wake up stiff and unable to loosen up right away
▪ Find normal walking painful
▪ Have trouble gripping things
▪ Have painful, limited motion squatting, kneeling, or climbing stairs

Osteoarthritis can be managed in a variety of ways including:
▪ Topical pain medicines and oral analgesics
▪ Exercise – swimming is a great option as it puts less pressure on your joints
▪ Intermittent hot and cold packs
▪ Losing weight
▪ Eating healthy

Number 2 – Psoriatic arthritis

About 10 to 30 percent of people with the skin disease psoriasis will get psoriatic arthritis. Typically, sufferers of this type of arthritis will have psoriasis first and the arthritis symptoms begin between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can start in childhood. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:

▪ Swelling in fingers and toes
▪ Pitted or disfigured fingernails
▪ Painful joints

There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis. To control inflammation and joint pain, patients are typically prescribed anti-inflammatory medication. Other treatments include therapies such as physical, occupational, and massage therapy, steroid injections, and surgical procedures such as joint replacement surgery.

Number 3 – Gout

Gout – known as the “disease of kings,” most likely because King Henry VIII suffered from it. Whether you’re a king or a commoner, this very painful form of inflammatory arthritis is more typically found in men. Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals in a joint – often the big toe.

You might have gout if:
▪ You experience intense, intermittent joint pain in your big toe, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, or fingers
▪ Continue experiencing discomfort, even after the sharp pain goes away
▪ Experience joint inflammation and redness

In addition to medications that lower the level of uric acid produced in your body, there are easy lifestyle changes you can make. Limiting alcoholic beverages, staying away from drinks sweetened with fructose, and drinking lots of water help alleviate symptoms. Avoid foods like red meat, organ meats, tuna, trout, scallops, and mussels. Adding low-impact activities like biking, swimming, walking, and staying at a healthy weight also is a way to combat gout.

Number 4 – Lupus

It is not known what causes the autoimmune disease Lupus. Lupus plays havoc with your immune system and causes inflammation and pain in the joints, organs, and even the brain. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with lupus than men, and more often in childbearing years. It’s more prevalent among African-American women.

Symptoms include:
▪ Painful, swollen joints
▪ Fatigue
▪ Headaches
▪ Swelling in the feet, legs, hands, or around the eyes
▪ Rashes, including a “butterfly” rash across the cheeks
▪ Mouth sores
▪ Sun sensitivity
▪ Hair loss
▪ Blue or white fingers or toes when exposed to cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
▪ Blood disorders, like anemia and low levels of white blood cells or platelets
▪ Chest pain from inflammation of the lining of the heart or lungs

Lupus treatments vary significantly for each patient. Some things you can do outside of medication include being very careful when out in the sun. Ultraviolet light can trigger a flare-up, therefore daily application of sunscreen is recommended. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet, eliminating smoking, and exercising regularly can also help manage symptoms.

Number 5 – Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis also is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system attacks parts of the body – in this case, the joints. At first, the smaller joints, your fingers, hands, toes, and feet are affected. Symptoms then tend to spread to larger joints such as the hips, knees, ankles, elbows, wrists, and shoulders. The attack on the joints causes inflammation which then results in joint damage.

The most common symptoms include:
▪ Joints that are tender, warm, and swollen
▪ Joint stiffness – especially in the morning and after being inactive for a long period of time
▪ Loss of appetite/weight loss
▪ Fatigue

Some sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis may experience symptoms that don’t affect the joints. Skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, nerve tissue, bone marrow, and blood vessels are all areas that can be affected.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis include medication, physical or occupational therapy, and surgical procedures to help restore the ability to use your joints, reduce pain, and improve function.

Arthritis sufferers may think that the pain associated with arthritis is something they must live with. But there are ways to alleviate the discomfort that comes with arthritis. Working with your doctor to find the right treatment options is key and creating a plan that incorporates healthy lifestyle choices and the right medications can go a long way. And surgery, while not the first option, may be something to talk about with your doctor when other treatment options fail to provide relief.

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