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What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older. Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age.

The most common types of arthritis are degenerative and inflammatory arthritis but there are numerous types of Arthritis and some are listed below.

  • Ankylosing spondylitis (Inflammatory)
  • Gout (Inflammatory)
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis- (OA) (Degenerative)
  • Psoriatic arthritis- (Inflammatory)
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis- (RA) (Inflammatory)
  • Septic arthritis Thumb arthritis
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, moderate or severe and depending on the type of arthritis you have, your signs and symptoms may include :
  • Joint Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness of the skin around the joint
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Symptoms may be worse in the mornings
  • With RA you may you may feel tired or experience a loss of appetite due to the inflammation the immune system causes
What are the Causes of of Arthritis?

Normal wear and tear can cause Osteoarthritis (OA), one of the most common forms of arthritis. An infection or injury to the joints can exacerbate this natural breakdown of cartilage tissue but your risk of developing OA may be higher if you have a family history of the disease. When the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can be brought on by a joint injury or infection.

Another common form of arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is an autoimmune disorder and is inflammatory. It occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, a tough membrane that encloses all the joint parts. This lining (synovial membrane) becomes inflamed and swollen. The disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint. A healthy immune system is protective and one of its normal functions is to create internal inflammation to get rid of an infection. With inflammatory types of arthritis, the immune system doesn’t work properly and mistakenly attacks the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion. With autoimmune and inflammatory types of arthritis, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is critical. Slowing disease activity can help minimize or even prevent permanent joint damage.

Exam & Treatment:

Arthritis is diagnosed through careful evaluation of symptoms and a physical examination. X-rays are important because they show the extent of any damage to the joint that is not visible but your provider may also order blood tests and to help determine the type of arthritis you have. There is no cure for arthritis, but the treatment of Arthritis focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. In most cases, people with arthritis can continue to perform normal activities of daily living but may need to take steps to ease pain and discomfort. Exercise programs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and weight reduction for obese persons are common measures to reduce pain, stiffness, and improve function. Over-the-counter medications can also be used to control pain and inflammation in the joints but if over the counter drugs are not sufficient, your provider may prescribe a medication to help your symptoms.
Another option for some, are injections of cortisone into the joint that may temporarily help to relieve pain and swelling. In severe cases of arthritis, orthopedic surgery can often provide pain relief and restore lost joint function. Your Med First provider will discuss with you what course of treatment is best for you and can also refer you to a rheumatologist, physical and occupational therapists or orthopedic surgeons.

Are there lifestyle changes that can help?

Since carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine, people with obesity have a higher risk of developing arthritis. Eating a healthy diet is important for weight loss and may may increase your mobility and limit future joint injury. Choosing a diet with lots of antioxidants, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and inflammation-reducing foods such as fish and nuts, can help reduce inflammation. Some foods to minimize or avoid if you have arthritis include fried foods, processed foods, dairy products, and high intakes of meat. Remember, weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight does reduce the risk of developing OA and can reduce symptoms if you already have it.

Regular exercise will keep your joints flexible. Swimming is often a good form of exercise for people with arthritis because it doesn’t put pressure on your joints the way running and walking do. Staying active is important, but you should also be sure to rest when you need to and avoid overexerting yourself. Heating pads or ice packs may also help relieve arthritis pain or help soreness after exercise.

How can Med First help?

At Med First our Providers are able to examine you, obtain labs and X-Ray without having to send you anywhere else. Since our clinics offer these services onsite, our Providers are able to review and discuss your X-Ray results with you during your visit. If it is deemed necessary, our Providers are also able to perform joint injections, prescribe appropriate medications and if needed refer you to a specialist for further treatment or surgical consultation.

Whether you are a new or established patient, if you have had any of the above symptoms, or have a family history of Arthritis, schedule an appointment to discuss this with a Med First Provider at any of our locations. For your convenience, you can book an appointment online through our secure patient portal or call our appointment center.