Arthritis literally means “inflammation of a joint.” Arthritic joints are swollen, or inflamed, usually because the smooth cartilage around them has been damaged in some way. Patients with arthritis suffer from pain, stiffness and swelling in the affected area(s).
Nearly one in three adults suffers from arthritis or other chronic joint symptoms. Arthritis is the most common chronic ailment among the elderly, although it can affect people of any age, including children.
There are two major categories of arthritis.
- The first type is caused by wear and tear on the articular cartilage (osteoarthritis) through the natural aging process, through constant use, or through trauma (post-traumatic arthritis).
- The second type is caused by one of a number of inflammatory processes.
Osteoarthritis Treatment– is the most common type of arthritis. It results from overuse, trauma, or the degeneration of the joint cartilage that takes place with age.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage covering the bone ends gradually wears away. In many cases, bone growths called “spurs” develop at the edges of osteoarthritic joints. The bone can become hard and firm (sclerosis). The joint becomes inflamed, causing pain and swelling. Continued use of the joint is painful.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment – affects many parts of the body, but mainly the joints. The body’s immune system, which normally protects the body, begins to produce substances that attack the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joint lining swells, invading surrounding tissues. Chemical substances are produced that attack and destroy the joint surface.
Rheumatoid arthritis may affect both large and small joints in the body and also the spine. Swelling, pain, and stiffness usually develop, even when the joint is not used. In some circumstances, juvenile arthritis may cause similar symptoms in children.
Over the counter or prescription medication, called anti-inflammatory drugs, can be used to control pain and inflammation in the joints.
Injections of cortisone into the joint may temporarily help to relieve pain and swelling.
Viscosupplementation or injection of hyaluronic acid preparations can also be helpful in lubricating the joint.
Exercise and Therapy
Canes, crutches, walkers, or splints may help relieve the stress and strain on arthritic joints. Certain exercises and physical therapy may be used to decrease stiffness and to strengthen the weakened muscles around the joint.
Joint surgery for arthritis depends on the location and severity of the pain. Hip and knee surgeries are most common, but some procedures can also be used for the ankles, wrists, fingers and thumbs. Many of these procedures are minimally invasive as new technology helps to provide less scarring and shorter recovery times.
Some of the most common procedures performed to treat arthritis include:
- Arthrodesis – fusing the bones of a joint together for improved stability and effective pain relief
- Arthroscopy – minimally invasive procedure that allows for careful examination and minor repairs, such as removing torn cartilage or bone ends
- Osteotomy – involves cutting or repositioning the bone to restore proper alignment and treat osteoarthritis
- Resection – removal of part or all of a bone for diseased joints that helps improve function and relieve pain
- Synovectomy – removal of the synovium or tissue lining to reduce pain and swelling and slow the progression of the disease
Total joint replacement is considered a last resort option for treating arthritis, and involves removing the damaged bones and tissues and replacing them with synthetic materials to stimulate the natural behavior of the joint. While this is the most complex and advanced procedure, it is very successful and can last for several years.
In most cases, persons with arthritis can continue to perform normal activities of daily living. Exercise programs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and weight reduction for obese persons are common measures to reduce pain, stiffness, and improve function.