According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, more than 50 million adults in America have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. That’s more than 22% of the population, and these numbers are only expected to increase in the coming years.
Most Americans think of arthritis as painful, creaky joints that make getting out of bed more difficult as you get older. In reality, however, there are many different types of arthritis that all have different symptoms. Symptoms primarily affect joints but, as part of a chronic condition, take time to manifest severity. Not all types of arthritis cause changes you can see and feel like swelling or inflammation, so many adults could be living with arthritis and not even know.
At Marjorie P. Lee, we’re dedicated to living well. Our wellness experts can help you recognize and cope with your arthritis before lasting damage is done.
Understanding the common types of arthritis is the first step to wellness.
Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout are the three forms of arthritis you’re most likely to develop as you age.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the type of arthritis most commonly associated with the condition. Its symptoms manifest as the stereotypical joint stiffness and pain.
OA occurs when the cartilage padding the bones in your joints begins to wear away, causing the bones rub against each other. This erosion can occur in virtually any joint, causing deformation and impeding function. Fragments of bone and cartilage that break away during erosion don’t just disappear. These pieces float around in the joint fluid, leading to irritation and inflammation.
As osteoarthritis progresses, movement of the affected joint becomes increasingly difficult and painful.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not actually a degenerative joint disease. RA is a systemic condition that turns the immune system against itself which, in turn, causes the deterioration of joints.
Early diagnosis can be challenging as the symptoms—fatigue, weakness, muscle soreness, fever, weight loss—can be indicative of any number of conditions. As an autoimmune disease, RA can also affect the heart, muscles, blood vessels, nervous system, and eyes.
When RA attacks healthy cells in the joints, fluid begins to accumulate, causing pain and inflammation. As the condition progresses, cartilage and bone begin to be eroded, just as in osteoarthritis, impeding joint mobility.
Gout or gouty arthritis is not a condition you’re likely to ignore, but its symptoms are easy to misdiagnose in a self-exam.
Gout occurs when high levels of uric acid in the blood form needle-sharp crystals within the joint, causing tenderness, inflammation, and excruciating pain. As onset symptoms often follow a trauma like illness or injury, however, you may find yourself attributing its symptoms to another cause.
Gout goes through several stages. Uric acid begins to accumulate, causing crystallization in the joints. An attack occurs when some physical experience causes acid levels to spike or disturb the crystals in the joint. Although pain typically fades within a week, if the underlying cause of uric acid buildup is not addressed, the gout will still remain, causing damage to joints and waiting for an event to trigger another attack.
You should always talk with your healthcare provider when you experience prolonged joint pain. There are many factors that contribute to arthritis, such as age and weight, so ask your doctor about your risks.
Living with arthritis can be difficult, but symptoms don’t have to overwhelm your day.
The aches and pains of arthritis can seriously affect your quality of life, making it difficult to do the activities you enjoy. While there are plenty of treatments for arthritis pain, we have two ways you can treat your symptoms and stop arthritis in its tracks:
Eat a balanced diet. Cut back on foods high in sodium, fat and sugar that can bulk you up and put extra strain on your joints. Limit portion sizes and fill up on fruits, vegetables and whole grains that lower blood pressure and cholesterol whenever you’re feeling peckish.
Exercise. We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep saying it: exercise plays an important part in living well. We could fill a whole blog with all the benefits you can reap from regular physical activity—even low-impact exercise like walking. For those of you living with arthritis, it’s important to note that exercise helps to reduce inflammatory chemicals.
Don’t let arthritis stop you from living well.