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5 Types of Arthritis: Exploring the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Ever get up from sitting in a chair too long and need a minute to stretch because you feel pain and stiffness in your knees or other joints? As we age, that becomes more common as swelling from wear and tear affects our joints. This is typically diagnosed as arthritis, and according to the CDC, nearly 55 million Americans suffer from it. For some, it’s part of life. But for others, it’s a debilitating condition affecting their quality of life. In fact, the chronic pain often leads to other issues like anxiety and depression. The term arthritis envelops a wide range of conditions. Let’s explore the types of arthritis and what can be done to help you feel better.

What is Arthritis?

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. Interestingly, women are at higher risk for arthritis because of hormonal differences. According to the Arthritis Foundation, one in three people aged 18 to 64 has arthritis. There is no cure for arthritis, but a pain management specialist can provide certain treatments for your specified arthritis.

Contact National Spine & Pain Centers to schedule an appointment with an affiliated pain specialist today.

Types of Arthritis, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Osteoarthritisis perhaps the most common form of arthritis, most commonly affecting the hips, knees, and spine. But it can be found in any joints, including neck, fingers, and even your toes. You may begin to feel this when you wake up in the morning with stiffness that eases with movement. But it can make a simple task like opening a jar or typing on your computer difficult.

There are treatments for the pain, but when the cartilage protecting the joints begins to wear away, it causes inflammation and even an increase in the synovial fluid in the joint. Osteoarthritis is often called “wear and tear” arthritis because it’s a degenerative joint disease. There are risk factors, including age, obesity, former joint injury, genetics, bone deformity, and diabetes.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Tenderness
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Grating sensation (popping and crackling sound with movement)
  • Bone spurs
  • Swelling

Progression of osteoarthritis often occurs in four stages:

  1. Minor wear and tear of the joints; an X-ray can usually detect a degenerative appearance.
  2. Bone spurs and stiffness can develop, leading patients to use a knee brace for support.
  3. Possible discomfort during everyday activities, signaling erosion of cartilage.
  4. Severe pain

Osteoarthritis Treatments:

  • Weight loss
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Supportive braces, canes, walkers
  • Steroid injections in the affected joints
  • Hyaluronate injections in the affected joints
  • Topical therapies
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories

When all else fails, surgery may help to correct the damage.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (R.A.) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than your joints. This is an autoimmune disorder, which means your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s healthy tissues. Antibodies develop, which is the concern because antibodies form in our bodies to fight bacteria and viruses. Scientists are trying to determine what triggers the body to signal that there’s an infection. Research indicates this could be hereditary, or caused by hormones, as R.A. is more prevalent in women. Rheumatoid arthritis affects smaller joints first, like fingers and toes. Disease progression will affect wrists, knees, ankles, and shoulders and may cause joint deformity.

R.A. can come and go. Patients often go through remission and then can have flare-ups or an increase of symptoms.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms:

  • Tender joints
  • Joints warm to the touch
  • Swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Rheumatoid arthritis may also affect skin, internal organs, eyes, salivary glands, nerve tissue, bone marrow, and blood vessels.

Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis includes anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, methotrexate, and biologic agents.

Psoriatic Arthritis is a unique variety of arthritis because it affects some people who have psoriasis, which is a skin condition that appears as red, scaly patches. This is most common in people aged 30 to 50. Symptoms can often come and go. Early medical treatment can help avoid further joint damage. Both psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis are chronic diseases that get worse over time. Folks with psoriatic arthritis can have persistent eye problems like conjunctivitis (pinkeye) and blurred vision, plus they are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms:

  • Swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joints warm to the touch
  • Pitted nails
  • Nail separation
  • Lower back pain
  • Swollen fingers and toes
  • Eye inflammation
  • Foot pain
  • Elbow pain
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Fatigue

Doctors typically treat psoriatic arthritis with anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressants.

Fibromyalgia: The CDC considers fibromyalgia a form of arthritis because of the widespread chronic pain that occurs. In fact, it is widespread musculoskeletal pain that’s associated with fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. Researchers say this condition amplifies the way your brain and spinal cord process pain signals.

Fibromyalgia symptoms have been linked with events like physical trauma, surgery, infection, or stress. However, there can also be no significant triggering event. Many specialists believe stress-relieving exercises can help reduce pain.

Fibromyalgia Risk Factors:

  • Age (typically affects middle-aged women)
  • Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Family history
  • Obesity

Gout is a tricky form of arthritis because, although it’s very common, it can affect anyone at any age. The pain comes on suddenly and usually wakes you up at night. It most often causes pain, swelling, and redness in a patient’s big toe. In fact, patients often say it feels like their big toe is on fire. The symptoms can often come and go.

Gout is caused by a condition known as hyperuricemia, where there is too much uric acid in the body. The body makes uric acid when it breaks down purines, which are found in your body and the foods you eat. When there is too much uric acid in the body, uric acid crystals (monosodium urate) can build up in joints, fluids, and tissues within the body. Men are more prone to gout. There are other possible factors making someone more susceptible to gout, including obesity, heart conditions, insulin resistance, diabetes, poor kidney function, alcohol consumption, and having a high-sugar diet.

Gout Symptoms:

  • Intense pain, usually in the big toe
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Limited range of motion

Treatment includes dietary changes as well as prescription pain relievers and rest.

Arthritis Care

While there is no cure for any form of arthritis, there are non-surgical treatments that can help subdue symptoms. Healthcare professionals often encourage patients to use exercise and relaxation to lessen the severity of symptoms.

The Arthritis Foundation also suggests using several nutritional supplements for symptomatic pain relief. They include glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, SAM-e, and curcumin. Always consult a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your daily routine.

Specialists also recommend a healthy lifestyle for arthritis care and prevention. Patients who improve their diet, participate in routine exercise, and lose weight can often decrease pain associated with arthritis.

Research indicates that if other members of your family have arthritis, you may also have that genetic marker or be more susceptible to experiencing osteoarthritis as you age. Maintaining a healthy weight and diet can minimize your chances of experiencing the pain of arthritis.

It is always best to seek the expertise of a pain medicine specialist at the onset of any pain you may be experiencing. Proper diagnosis can often prevent further damage or slow the degeneration of conditions like arthritis. Book an appointment with one of our qualified pain management specialists at the National Spine & Pain Centers to receive a full examination, which may include your medical history and necessary tests, including new and innovative biomarker testing to determine the right method of treatment for you.

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