Learning About Rheumatology: Arthritis Frequently Asked Questions

Published by Steve Hedberg on July 21, 2010 Under arthritis

Arthritis is a disease that is very common and can have a major impact on a person’s ability to get around. There are many different types of arthritis and a lot of different ways these diseases can affect the body. One of the biggest misconceptions about arthritis is that it can only affect the elderly, so many people who are younger overlook the signs of arthritis.

This document provides the answer to some frequently asked questions about arthritis.

Table of Contents

Does Arthritis Only Affect the Elderly?

While it is true that those who are over the age of 65 are at an increased risk for developing arthritis, those much younger than 65 are also at risk. In fact, arthritis is not just a disease for the elderly, but can actually affect children.

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What is Arthritis?

The term arthritis is used to refer to a number of different rheumatological disorders, which are diseases that affect the joints. These can cause the area around the joints to become inflamed and make movement painful. In additiion to affecting the joints, some types of arthritis carry other sorts of risks as well, such as affecting the organs or, as in the case of Psoriatic Arthritis, causing skin problems symptoms.

In children, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can occur, especially after injury to the joint. Symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which can include joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness, must persist for at least 6 weeks, before the condition is classified as Juvenile Arthritis. In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, which is a type of autoimmune disorder, there are also other types of arthritis that can affect children.

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How Does Arthritis Affect the Joints?

Arthritis can cause a lot of joint problems, including limited mobility, stiffness, inflammation, and pain.

This is often because the cartilage around the joint begins to wear down or deteriorate. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease, the bodies own white-blood cells that would normally protect the body, begins attacking the cartilage. In joints that have been injured, such as a broken hip, it is not uncommon to see cartilage damage, which increases the risk of arthritis later in life.

Cartilage forms a protective layer around the joints, so when it wears down, the bones can rub directly together, sometimes causing small bone fragments to break off or bone spurs to form. This is one of the main sources of arthritis pain.

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What is Senior Arthritis?

Arthritis is still the most common among the elderly though, with osteoarthritis being the most prevalent type of arthritis found in senior citizens. This type of degenerative joint disorder is most likely to be found in weight bearing joints, such as the knees or hips. As a result, there are many activities, such as farming or soccer, which can increase the risk for developing osteoarthritis.

It is common for osteoarthritis to only affect a single joint, such as only one of the knees, which is referred to a asymmetrical arthritis. In other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, the disease affects the joints symmetrically, so, for instance, both knees would show signs of arthritis.

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How To Diagnose Arthritis

There are a number of tests that can be preformed to help diagnose arthritis, including x-rays and blood work. However, none of these sorts of tests are accurate 100% of the time, so doctors will usually also ask their patients a series of questions or perhaps have them fill out a worksheet. These questions are aimed at helping to that helps identify the joints that are causing discomfort, as well as rating the pain and identifying what activities may be causing these problems.

For some types of arthritis, it can take a great deal of time to correctly diagnose the disease.

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How To Treat Arthritis: Watch Out For Scams!

There is no cure for arthritis, nor is there a magic elixir available that can help cure arthritis pain. However, that does not keep many people from trying to sell one. To this end, it is very important to discuss any sort of treatment with your doctor and to be aware that there are many scams out there, such as copper bracelets or magnets, which do nothing more than rely on the placebo effect.

Another thing to watch out for are the many vitamins and herbs that are sold to help treat joint pain or inflammation. These are often untested and unregulated, again relying on the placebo affect.

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How To Treat Arthritis: Pain Management

Arthritis can be very painful and often after periods of inactivity, such as in the morning after a nights rest, the joint pain can be very serious. It may be tempting to take some pain medication, but it is important to keep in mind that most medications, even those that are sold over the counter, carry some risks.

For instance, over the counter pain medications can increase the risk for kidney diseases and in general, pain medication can increase the risk for injury. For instance, pain medications that have narcotic properties can make the user unsteady, which can be very dangerous to the elderly. Pain medication can also increases the risk of an injury, as it dulls the warning signs that the body provides when you are putting too much strain on a joint or muscle.

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How To Treat Arthritis: Exercise and Diet

In many cases, regular low-risk exercise and diet can be far more effective at managing arthritis than other treatments.

Low-risk exercises include things like walking or water aerobics, which are low-impact. This means that they do not put a lot of strain on the joints, unlike running, which is a high-impact sport. Of course, even with low impact exercises, it is still possible to overdue it, so it is important to talk with a doctor to determine what types of exercises will be most beneficial.

Studies have found that even a small amount of regular exercise can help reduce arthritis pain and improve flexibility, in part because it helps to strengthen the muscles around the joints. A healthy diet, that includes daily vitamins, is also important.

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