An ailment that affects 54 million adults and 300,000 children in the U.S., arthritis has different forms and levels of severity. In this post, we’ll clarify what arthritis is, examine the most common types of arthritis, share ways to get help if you suffer from the condition and provide information so you can consult with medical professionals if needed.
Describing arthritis in the most basic way, the chronic condition is defined by an inflammation of the joints or swelling of the tissue that surrounds the joints. Though the cause is unknown, there are many ways to treat arthritis and manage symptoms to relieve pain.
Types of Arthritis
Though there are at least 100 variations of arthritis, here we’ll focus on the most common.
- Osteoarthritis is the most typical type of arthritis that affects Americans. A degenerative joint disease, Osteoarthritis causes patients to feel stiffness, aches and pains most often in the hips, knees and hands. This type of arthritis thankfully does not affect the body’s organs.
- Fibromyalgia patients suffer from abnormal pain processing, which makes them more sensitive to pain. Extreme fatigue, sleep issues, emotional distress and pain that travels throughout the body are what many fibromyalgia patients endure.
- Gout is another very common form of arthritis, sometimes brought on by consuming a diet high in alcohol and meat. It’s caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals that lead to a flare-up in a joint (most often starting with the big toe). This swelling can be very painful and cause issues with walking. Gout is commonly seen in obese adults and strikes men more often than women.
- Psoriatic Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can affect any part of the body and may arrive with a wide range of severity, from sparking only mild symptoms to becoming extremely painful. Those who suffer from this type of arthritis often see red patches on their skin and changes to their nails. Their flare-ups of swelling and joint pain may also come and go without warning.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the tissue that lines the insides of joints becomes inflamed. This causes swelling in areas that normally would help joints move, and that inflammation results in pain. Essentially, the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks its own joints.
- Lupus is a complex autoimmune disorder that destroys healthy tissue and can affect lungs, kidneys, brain, skin and blood vessels in addition to joints. Lupus patients are at an advanced risk for atherosclerosis, seizures and strokes. Symptoms include fevers, fatigue, skin rashes, joint swelling and pain. In the most serious cases, Lupus can be fatal.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis is a form of arthritis that if left untreated can lead to the fusing of spine vertebrae. This result can cause immobility issues, posture challenges and difficulty breathing. Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis typically center around the spine, but some patients also experience inflammation in other areas of the body including the eyes.
- Juvenile Arthritis shows up in children as a sudden rash or fever, accompanied by swollen joints, leading many parents and guardians to assume it’s only a flu bug that will soon pass. Because the symptoms can come and go quite rapidly, many kids who have Juvenile Arthritis go undiagnosed for years.
How to Get Help
The type of arthritis you’re diagnosed with will determine the proper course of treatment, but to manage the most common arthritis symptoms, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends following their “Strive for Five” guidelines:
- Learn New Self-Management Skills – With this recommendation, patients can learn how to better communicate with their health care providers, reduce stress and manage pain.
- Be Active – The importance of physical activity is paramount for arthritis patients. Exercise can reduce pain, elevate moods and help reduce risk for other chronic diseases.
- Talk to Your Doctor – Patients experiencing arthritis symptoms and not getting results from self-management techniques should always consult with a professional. They can help determine the best treatment plan and confirm the patient is properly diagnosed.
- Manage Your Weight – Becoming physically fit and staying within an ideal weight range can reduce arthritis symptoms significantly due to a reduction of stress on the joints.
- Protect Your Joints – Injuries sustained by joints can be the cause of or worsen arthritis in patients. By choosing low-impact activities like swimming and walking, patients reduce the risk of injury that could lead to additional joint trauma.
Talk to a Doctor for More Information
If you’re experiencing symptoms of arthritis or need help managing your existing condition, Western Washington Medical Group offers comprehensive care at our Rheumatology clinics. We have 3 locations to serve you: in Bothell, Silver Lake, and Everett. Contact us to request an appointment today.