Arthritis

What is it and when to see a doctor?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. You’ll most commonly notice joint pain and stiffness, which worsen over time. It can affect a single joint or multiple joints, and the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid.

However, there are over 100 different types of it, varying significantly in the cause and treatment.

 

Some of the common types include:

  • Osteoarthritis
    The cartilage covering the joint wears down, leading to stiffness, pain, and mild swelling around the joint. It is associated with age and affects the fingers, knees, and hips.
  • Gout
    It is caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints. It most commonly affects the big toe, though other joints can be involved.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
    It affects the spine, leading to redness, swelling, heat, and pain.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
    It is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the joint tissues, leading to inflammation and a breakdown of the joint. Joints are often hot, swollen, and painful. It most commonly affects the hands and feet.
  • Psoriatic arthritis
    It occurs in some people who have psoriasis and affects the skin and joints.
  • Juvenile arthritis
    It occurs in children.
  • Reactive arthritis
    It occurs in response to an infection. Other symptoms include swollen eyes and a swollen urinary tract.
  • Septic arthritis
    The joint has become infected. It is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition.

Because of the great diversity of potential causes, arthritic symptoms can vary significantly.

Your doctor will complete a full examination to look for all signs and symptoms. However, you’ll most commonly experience the following:

  • Pain in the joint
  • Joint swelling
  • Redness over joint
  • Stiffness in the joints
  • Decreased range of motion

However, not all arthritic conditions present with all five of these signs. Osteoarthritis, for example, may not show any redness over the joint area.

Other symptoms include:

  • Clicking or popping when moving the joint
  • Muscle weakness around the joint
  • Joint instability or buckling
  • A grating or scraping feeling in the joint (crepitus)
Almost all causes of joint conditions are progressive, meaning they’ll get worse without treatment. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, you should schedule an appointment with an expert.

If you suspect the joint is infected (fever, redness, hot joint, swelling), you should seek immediate medical attention. Without treatment, the infection can spread and lead to sepsis.

A doctor will take a full history to see when your condition began and how it has progressed. They’ll complete a physical exam, feeling the joints and noting the range of movement.

In almost all cases, blood samples are taken to determine what kind of arthritis you have. Specific components in the blood can help diagnose some types of disease.

For example, high white blood cells indicate an infection, while anti-CCP is found in RA.

Your doctor will also order imaging scans such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. They can help diagnose or eliminate certain conditions. Osteoarthritis is commonly diagnosed based on an X-ray, for instance.

The treatments depend wholly on the underlying condition. Osteoarthritis is managed with physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles, pain medication, and occupational therapy to aid daily tasks. Cortisone injections are also a potential treatment.

In contrast, RA treatments are significantly more aggressive due to the destructive nature of the condition. It’s typically managed by a rheumatologist, who’ll prescribe a range of medications like steroids, NSAIDs, DMARDS (e.g., methotrexate), and newer biologic agents (e.g., adalimumab (Humira)). Surgery is also a possibility in severe cases.

Please refer to our Gout page for further information regarding this condition.

Most people with arthritis are well-managed and live healthy and active lives. Several causes are curable, being unlikely to reoccur. However, most treatments rely on patients to be responsible and proactive in their treatments.

Our Foot and Ankle Doctor is available to evaluate your condition.

Book an appointment with Foot & Ankle Centers today.

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