Everything You Need to Know About Arthritis: Types and Treatments

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, where the cartilage around the joint degenerates from wear, but there are more than 100 types.

If you woke up with joint pain this morning, you could be among more than 50 million Americans with arthritis. While there are many types, they often share similar symptoms, including:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion

If any of these words describe one of more of your joints, it’s time to talk to your MDVIP-affiliated doctor. This is not an appointment you should delay, because getting on the right treatment plan offers more than pain relief. Depending on your diagnosis, the right treatment may help slow the progression of the disease.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the most common types of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA). OA is sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis. It is the most common form of arthritis, and it develops when a joint’s cartilage (the cushioning tissue between the bones of a joint) wears down. This breakdown tends to occur over many years, but it can develop faster if you’ve had a joint injury or infection.

Treatment for mild to moderate OA includes hot and cold therapies, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicines and sometimes physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the joint. In severe cases, joint replacement can provide the most relief.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack itself, starting with the lining of the joints. Over time, RA can destroy cartilage and bone within the joint – and damage organs, too. Women are more likely than men to develop RA.

RA drugs include those that target the root of the disease (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and/or biologic drugs) as well as those that manage painful symptoms. Healthy lifestyle choices, assistive devices and joint replacement can also improve pain and quality of life.

Gout. More common in men than women, gout causes attacks of intense pain, usually in the big toe. The culprit: a buildup of uric acid crystals, which form when there’s too much uric acid in your blood.

Uric acid is a waste material that comes from the breakdown of purine, a substance found in human cells and certain foods. People with gout either make too much uric acid or cannot get rid of enough of it. Treatments include pain relievers and/or drugs that help balance uric acid levels.

Other types of arthritis. RA isn’t the only form of arthritis caused by an immune system gone awry. Others include psoriatic arthritis, which usually affects joints, skin and nails; and ankylosing spondylitis, which causes pain and stiffness in the spinal joints.

Sometimes, arthritis can be triggered if bacteria or viruses – including salmonella, gonorrhea, and hepatitis C – enter the joint. Arthritis caused by infection may be temporary and treatable with antibiotics, but in some cases it becomes chronic.

When you have an autoimmune form of arthritis, you should see a specialist called a rheumatologist. When you need surgery on a joint, you’ll see a specialist called an orthopedic surgeon. Most other times, though, you can get the diagnosis, care and advice you need from your MDVIP-affiliated doctor.

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