Arthritis is one of the most common disabilities in America, with over 50 million people being diagnosed. Although many people believe it is an issue that only afflicts the elderly, it in fact can happen to anyone at any age. While it is widely classified as joint pain or joint disease, the truth is that it can be broken down into more than 100 different types of disease. There is no cure for arthritis, but there are ways to help manage symptoms and have a good quality of life while living with arthritis.

Symptoms of Arthritis

All forms of arthritis will have similar symptoms within the joints that can range from mild to severe, and may even come and go. People will typically experience:

  • Joint swelling
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Permanent joint changes – may be outwardly visible, or only found by x-ray

When symptoms become severe, the person may experience chronic pain, the inability to perform daily activities, and find it difficult to walk or climb stairs.

Common Types of Arthritis

Understanding the different types of arthritis and how each affects the joints helps patients and physicians determine the most effective treatment options.

  • Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type and occurs when the cartilage between joints wears away, resulting in bone-on-bone contact. This lack of cushioning causes pain, swelling and stiffness. Those most at risk for developing osteoarthritis have excess weight, family history of the condition, are older, or have experienced a previous injury. Staying active and avoiding repetitive actions can help prevent this condition.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This is also known as inflammatory arthritis and is triggered by the body’s own immune system attacking the joints by mistake, causing inflammation, joint erosion, and even damage to internal organs. It isn’t exactly known what causes rheumatoid arthritis, but research has concluded that a combination of genetics and environmental factors, such as smoking, may actually trigger it if certain genes are present. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is essential to minimize or prevent permanent damage.
  • Infectious arthritis: Inflammation of the joints may be brought on by certain bacteria, viruses or fungi, like salmonella, chlamydia, and hepatitis C. Using antibiotics quickly after diagnosis can help clear any joint infection, but it is possible for the arthritis to become chronic.

Receiving Orthopedic Care for Arthritis

The most important thing to note with any case of arthritis is that proper evaluation by an orthopedic specialist is vital. The physician will help you get on a proper treatment plan that is right for your diagnosis rather than simply masking an issue. He or she will be able to perform blood tests, a physical exam, and imaging scans to see what is happening within your joints. At Decatur County Memorial Hospital, we partner with Southern Indiana Orthopedics to provide our patients with comprehensive, quality care from board-certified orthopedic surgeons.

If you are experiencing joint pain, don’t wait until it gets worse. Contact us today to schedule an exam, and let us help you feel like yourself again.