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Arthritis is painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. It is estimated that approximately 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis. There are more than 100 different forms of the disease with the two main types being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. With so many types of arthritis it's important to have your doctor accurately diagnosis your condition and to seek treatment. If left untreated, arthritis may cause complications to the body’s organs, as well as deformity of the hands and feet.
Specialists who treat arthritis:
- Rheumatologist – physicians who diagnose (detect), treat and medically manage patients who suffer from arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.
- Orthopedic Surgeon – physicians who manage special problems of the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic surgeons diagnosis your injury or disorder, provide treatment with medication, exercise, surgery or other treatment plans, encourage rehabilitation by recommending exercises or physical therapy to restore movement, strength and function. Orthopedic surgeons prepare patients for surgery as advanced stages of arthritis require surgical correction.
- Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation – is a medical specialty concerned with diagnosis, evaluation, and management of persons of all ages with physical and/or cognitive impairment and disability.
- Pain Medicine – the field of medicine that is concerned with the prevention of pain, and the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons in pain.
- Physical Therapist - health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility through developing fitness and wellness programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.
Common types of arthritis:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – one of the most common types of arthritis – affects more than 1.5 million adults in the United States. RA is a systemic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the small joints in your hands and feet, but unlike other forms of arthritis, RA also is an autoimmune disease. With RA, the immune system attacks the body’s tissues specifically the thin membranes that line the joints – putting the entire body at risk for joint inflammation.
- Osteoarthritis - the degeneration or "wear and tear" of a joint caused by overuse of joints. The damage can result in bone grinding directly on bone, which causes pain and restricted movement. This deterioration can occur over many years, or it can be hastened by a joint injury or infection. Osteoarthritis affects more than 33 million adults in the United States.
- Psoriatic arthritis
Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Swelling or tenderness in joints
- Stiffness or limited range of motion that may last for hours, typically during the morning
- Pain, redness or warm in joint area
- Fatigue, fever and weight loss
Risk Factors & Prevention
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Family history. Some types of arthritis run in families, so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder. Your genes can make you more susceptible to environmental factors that may trigger arthritis.
- Age. The risk of many types of arthritis — including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout — increases with age.
- Gender. Women are more likely than are men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout are men.
- Previous joint injury. People who have injured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint.
- Obesity. Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. Obese people have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
- Genetics. Specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and ankylosing spondylitis.
Reduce the onset of arthritis by:
- Educating yourself about arthritis. Learning all you can about your form of arthritis will help you manage your symptoms. And, in the case of osteoarthritis, you might be able to prevent or slow the progression of it.
- Being physically active. Physical activity and weight management are important and can help manage the pain and stiffness from many forms of arthritis. Whether you are starting your own routine or want to join a program, there are many options for you to choose from.
- Protecting your joints. Whether you are working out or working in the yard or just looking for a way to be kind to your hard-working joints, it is important to minimize the trauma they experience. Here are some tips to help protect joints and keep them feeling better.
- Getting involved. Find out how you can help those who have arthritis and those who may get it in the future. Through Advocacy, Public Health and Research, the Arthritis Foundation helps people with arthritis live better today and create better tomorrows through new treatments, better access to care, and ultimately cures.