Arthritis: From Diagnosis to Treatment and Beyond

Arthritis is more than a degenerative disease affecting the elderly. It can affect one joint or multiple joints People often have moderate to severe pain on a daily basis that requires therapy, pain management, and in some cases, joint replacement or joint surgeries. 

Arthritis Facts 

The Arthritis Foundation says, “Arthritis affects 53 million adults and 300,000 children in the US.” Treatments vary and depend on multiple factors, such as type of arthritis. There are over 100 types of arthritis, and the most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious arthritis, and gout. Women are also more likely to have arthritis than men. 

When to See Your Doctor 

Diagnosis is the initial step, and the earlier the better. Patients should make an appointment with their doctor as soon as symptoms begin and last for at least three days. Multiple episodes throughout a month is another cause for concern. Bonuses to seeking early diagnosis is reducing the risk of permanent joint damage. 

Diagnosing 

Arthritis itself is not a diagnosis, but it is the first step toward the right one and treatment. A primary care doctor will examine the patient as well as issue blood tests and other diagnostic tests. If any uncertainty arises, or the doctor believes the arthritis is inflammatory, a physician may refer the patient to a rheumatologist for a second opinion. For other cases, a physician may refer patients to a sport’s medicine doctor, or an orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation; these specialists commonly perform joint surgery and replacements. 

Treatments 

Arthritis does not have a cure, but many treatment options can stop joint damage and manage pain. Rheumatoid arthritis requires extensive and aggressive treatments through medications, such as biologicals and immune system suppressants, to halt the progression and put the patient in remission. Gout can involve a Uric acid reducer, steroids, anti-inflammatory medicines, and analgesics for treatments to lower the Uric Acid. Osteoarthritis will require pain management, but physical therapy and exercises that don’t put stress on painful joints can also help patients. Non-surgery options also include cortisone shots for pain relief and hyaluronic acid for joint lubrication and pain relief. 

Surgery is often the last option for patients, but it is often the scariest too. Luckily most surgeons elect for arthroscopic surgeries that use the latest technology and small incisions. This type of surgery can also be useful in diagnosis and in exploratory surgeries and allows the surgeon to see if complications are present that have not shown up on an MRI or X-rays. 

Replacement surgery is another option. Dr. Daniel Schwartz M.D., a prominent surgeon who specializes in shoulder and elbow related injuries, including arthritis, says that every replacement case is unique. Success rates are higher for older patients who are less likely to add additional wear or stress to the prosthesis. 

Living with Arthritis 

New advancements and theories are pushing researchers and doctors toward new treatments every day. Be honest and upfront about pain with doctors. As new aches arise, inform them because they cannot help without clear communication from their patients.

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