Two forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, plague their victims each day with pain, stiffness, and sometimes deformities. Learning to manage the pain is imperative to living life with arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by limited joint movement and pain associated with activity, as well as stiffness and occasional swelling. In advanced stages, deformity can occur. A person suffering from osteoarthritis may noticing a grinding sensation in their joints as they move about. Osteoporosis (bone loss) and obesity may contribute to the disease. Also, weather conditions may affect the severity of pain and stiffness.
Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage breaks down within joints, causing bone to rub against bone. This occurs over time. A person affected will notice an increase in pain and stiffness as the day wears on.
Although there is no cure, there is treatment that is available. Your physician will assess how severe your case is and prescribe the appropriate treatment. Depending on how much damage has occurred and how much pain the patient is in will depend on the level of treatment. Your physician may prescribe an exercise program to keep joints mobile. Also, if you are overweight, he may suggest losing weight to help reduce symptoms. Heat and cold therapy as well as medications may also be used to alleviate symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by some of the same symptoms, such as joint pain, swelling and stiffness. A victim of RA may also experience fatigue, fever, and decreasing appetite. RA usually affects the wrists, hands, elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles. It occurs when the immune system attacks itself. Rheumatoid arthritis is not only limited to the joints. It can also affect the body's organs. With time, RA can be crippling.
If rheumatoid arthritis is suspect, your physician may order a lab test to search for 'rheumatoid factor,' an antibody. It is found in 80% of people diagnosed with the disease. Your physician will also examine your joints to see if they are swollen or tender. If he finds RA to be the culprit, he will suggest treatment. The earlier you begin treatment, the quicker you can prevent further damage to your joints. Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers may be prescribed as well as medications to slow joint destruction. When the disease flares up, you may take Corticosteroid injections to quickly alleviate the symptoms. These may be taken at certain intervals to control acute discomfort. The goal is to control pain, maintain joint health, and prevent permanent disability.
Living with arthritis isn't always easy, but by working hand in hand with your physician you can learn to manage your pain and discomfort. To maintain muscle strength and to keep your joints active, you may want to incorporate a regular exercise program. Be sure to check with your physician first as he will know just how much and what type of exercise you need. Swimming is an excellent exercise if you're experiencing pain in your knees, ankles, and hips. Your doctor may prescribe exercises that stretch, strengthen, and condition your muscles. If you find that stress aggravates your symptoms, you'll need to find a way to alleviate stress. Listening to soothing music, taking an evening stroll, or finding an activity that is enjoyable may help.
If you find that certain activities at work aggravate your arthritis, it may be time to mention it to your employer. It's possible you can tailor your activities at work at different intervals so they won't stress your joints as much. Rearranging your work space may be an option to prevent reaching. Make sure you're aware of activities that aggravate your symptoms.
Awareness can help you control your pain. It may be time to enlist help of friends and family members for your more difficult tasks. Also, make sure you take breaks throughout the day to stretch out your limbs. You may also be advised to make changes in your diet to help control your pain. A healthy diet low in salt, cholesterol, and saturated fats, and high in fiber and complex carbohydrates will go a long way to helping you maintain your health. Also, vitamin D and calcium are important for joint and bone health as well. And make sure you talk to your doctor about any changes, worsening of pain, that occur. He may be able to change your treatment to suit you better.
Today, almost 70 million people in the US are victims of arthritis. 1% of the American population are affected by rheumatoid arthritis. It is more common and severe in women than men. Twenty million people are victims of osteoarthritis. Arthritis usually begins affecting people from the age of 30-50, however, it can strike at any age. The main thing is to have regular checkups to keep your doctor aware of any changes, and to follow his advice about managing your pain and treatment.