Although there are more than 100 types of arthritis and rheumatic disorders, the most common include:
- Osteoarthritis – A degenerative joint disease that can result from age-related wear and tear, overuse or trauma that damages protective cartilage between bones and joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis.
- Autoimmune arthritis – Occurs when your body's immune system attacks its own healthy tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common autoimmune arthritis, causing swelling of the joint lining and excess fluid. This can also occur in children, called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).
Other common rheumatic conditions — which may share some arthritis symptoms — include fibromyalgia, gout and lupus.
Arthritis can occur in people of all ages. In many cases, joint inflammation stops when the cause — such as a broken bone, infection or repetitive stress injury — is treated. In other cases, such as age- or injury-related osteoarthritis, arthritis symptoms don’t go away.
Your risk of arthritis increases with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent of all people who have arthritis are women. A family history of arthritis can increase your risk of certain types of the disease, including rheumatoid arthritis. Managing some risk factors can reduce your chances of developing arthritis.
Manageable risk factors include:
- Weight. Being overweight or obese can cause or worsen arthritis, especially in knee joints.
- Injuries. A bone or joint injury can cause arthritis in the affected joint.
- Infection. Bacterial or viral infections can damage joints and cause the development of various types of arthritis.
- Occupation. Work that involves repetitive bending, kneeling or squatting can cause knee arthritis.
The team of specialists at El Camino Hospital can help you manage chronic arthritis and prevent or limit joint damage. From education to treatment, we can help improve your ability to function.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Arthritis symptoms can include:
- Pain in one or more joints.
- Joint swelling and fluid buildup in the tissue around joints.
- Difficulty moving joints.
- Redness and swelling around joints.
- Joint stiffness, especially in the morning.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and testing, such as blood tests, joint fluid samples, X-rays or other tests to identify injuries, infection or other conditions and potential causes of arthritis. Your doctor may recommend arthroscopy, a minimally invasive way to examine the inside of your joint and treat some conditions.
Arthritis treatment options depend on the type of arthritis you have. At El Camino Hospital, our arthritis experts will address related conditions — such as injury or infection — and prescribe treatment that focuses on managing pain, minimizing joint damage and improving your ability to function.
Weight control and low-impact exercise are among the best ways to ease arthritis symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce stress on your joints, while exercise can reduce pain and improve strength and flexibility. Avoid joint-stressing exercise such as jogging, and choose swimming, yoga, walking or other low-impact exercise. When you walk, opt for flat, even surfaces and avoid rocky or hilly terrain. Your doctor may recommend an expert or design the most appropriate program for you.
To relieve pain and swelling, your doctor may use medications such as acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or analgesic creams that are applied directly to the painful joint. Your doctor may also use corticosteroid injections to relieve symptoms. For knee osteoarthritis, your doctor may recommend injections of hyaluronic acid, a substance found in the body that thickens joint fluid to improve mobility.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
Physical therapy can help you strengthen your muscles and boost your flexibility and mobility. Your physical therapist will develop an exercise program for you and teach you pain management techniques. An occupational therapist can help you learn how to perform everyday tasks while limiting stress on your joints. Your therapists may also recommend equipment that can help make everyday activities easier.
In some cases, complementary therapies such as dietary supplements (including glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate), chiropractic care and acupuncture may provide relief from symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether alternative options are appropriate for you.
If you have severe joint damage, significant pain or extremely limited mobility, certain surgical procedures may help. Available options include:
- Arthroscopic surgery. Using tiny instruments and a high-definition camera connected to a monitor, the surgeon can examine the inside of your joint. The surgeon may also take tissue samples, remove loose cartilage, repair tears and remove diseased synovial tissue (most often used in knee and shoulder surgery). In some cases, arthroscopic hip surgery can help avoid or delay the need for a more extensive surgery, such as hip replacement.
- Osteotomy. This surgery can be an alternative to partial or total knee or hip joint replacement when just one side of a joint is damaged. The surgeon cuts and reshapes the bone. This can improve stability and relieve stress and pressure on the affected area by redistributing the weight on your joint. People with hip or knee osteoarthritis in only one joint or who are too young for a joint replacement may benefit most from this procedure.
- Joint fusion. During this procedure, the surgeon removes the damaged joint and fuses the two bones on each side of the joint. Choosing this option over joint replacement may depend on variables such as your weight, physical limitations, treatment expectations or activity level. Specialists at El Camino Hospital have expertise in various types of joint fusion, including spinal fusion for severe spinal arthritis.
- Joint replacement surgery (arthroplasty). If you have extremely limited mobility, replacing the joint may help. This typically involves removing the damaged joint, relining of the ends of bones and replacing the old joint with an artificial joint. Knee and hip joints are most commonly replaced, but shoulder, elbow, finger and ankle joints can be replaced with artificial joints.
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