What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a term used to describe a diseased joint or pain in the joint. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. These different arthritis can be grouped into two major categories:
1.Inflammation related (Inflammatory arthritis) such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, gout etc.
2. Age related degenerative arthritis which is Osteoarthritis.
How do I know what type of arthritis I have?
Inflammatory arthritis can occur at any age, however osteoarthritis tends to occur more commonly in older people.
Inflammatory arthritis causes inflammation in the joints. The symptoms are redness, warmth, swelling, and tenderness in the joints and is accompanied by systemic (involving multiple parts of the body) symptoms such as fatigue, low-grade fever, weight loss and prolonged joint stiffness after rest.
Degenerative arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis causes symptoms only in the joint and does not cause systemic symptoms. It presents with symptoms of pain, grinding sensation and decreased range of motion in the joint.
I have heard rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease? Is that true?
That is true! Our immune system defends our body against bacteria and viruses. But sometimes our immune system can get confused and start attacking our joints, skin and other organs such as our heart and lungs. Often this kind of autoimmune attack causes severe joint damage and deformity very quickly and can be crippling. Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus are some examples of autoimmune diseases.
That sounds serious! Can joint damage be prevented?
It is very important to diagnose and treat inflammatory arthritis early to prevent deformity and disability. Early arthritis is the window of opportunity, a period of 3 to 6 months from the onset of symptoms during which effective treatment can prevent irreversible joint damage and sometimes can lead to disease remission. If left untreated inflammatory arthritis becomes chronic, most often rheumatoid arthritis.
What should I be looking for?
Joint swelling involving multiple joints, especially hands, wrists, or feet
Joint warmth, redness, and pain
Unexplained weight loss
Fatigue and malaise
Positive blood test for rheumatoid factor, anti CCP ab, ANA
High test of inflammation such as ESR or CRP
How can a rheumatologist help you?
After performing a thorough examination, your rheumatologist will order necessary blood test, x-rays, ultrasound of the joint if necessary take fluid out of the joint for testing. All these will help in establishing a diagnosis. Instituting treatment early will prevent long term damage.
If you suspect you have inflammatory arthritis, please ask about the early arthritis referral program to be seen as soon as possible.
Call us at 484-206-4447 or visit our website at www.extonarthritis.com