Rheumatoid arthritis and (RA) osteoarthritis (OA) are inflammations of the joints.
They cause pain and restrict one’s mobility. Most of the time they affect older age groups, but it is not uncommon for people under 30 to develop either condition. The reasons vary. And although some individuals are at risk of getting the disorder more than others, no one is safe from OA and RA. In the paragraphs to follow, we will discuss the two conditions in detail, looking into arthritis treatments and symptoms.
Common Symptoms and Treatments of Osteoarthritis
Before we dive right into the subject of osteoarthritis, let us define arthritis. This is a common term used to name an inflammation of the joints. It can happen anywhere in the body acting on one or multiple joints at a time. There are several options with regard to arthritis treatment, but it is important to understand there is no ultimate cure for the condition.
Now, osteoarthritis is just one of many types of arthritis. In truth, it is the most common one. To explain where it happens, we have to mention that the ends of the bones normally have a firm and slippery protective cartilage. It acts like a cushion, preventing the bones from friction when in motion. Sadly enough, though, it tends to thin and wear away over time. When this happens, a disorder forms, resulting in osteoarthritis knee, hands, hips, and spine.
- Stiffness – You are more likely to notice this symptom early in the morning as you are rolling out of bed. Reason being the body has been inactive all night long. But when you begin to move around, things usually go back to normal. This is why stiffness lasts about 30 minutes after you get up. The symptom may reappear after sitting down for prolonged periods of time.
- Pain – you may experience joint pain during or after movement.
- Flexibility loss – You may notice you are no more able to move your joints like you used to. The full span of motion is likely to be hampered.
- Tenderness – when you apply pressure to the joint, it might feel tender.
- Bone spurs – Extra segments of bone may appear around the affected joint. You’ll know that because they feel like lumps to the touch.
- Grating sensation – when the joint is in use, you may experience a grating sensation.
It is important to keep in mind the following. With or without osteoarthritis treatment, the condition worsens over time. Risk factors include joint injuries, obesity, genetics, older age, and bone deformity. Sex plays a role too. It turns out women are more predisposed towards developing this condition than men. The reasons behind this are not clear yet. Additionally, certain occupations may put enormous stress on your joints and develop into a disorder.
Additional Facts About OA
- This is the most prevalent kind of arthritis across the globe, affecting 2.1 million Australians and 31 million Americans.
- People diagnosed with OA are more likely to experience comorbidities. This is when you have two or more diseases at a time. For instance, there is nearly 50% probability of triggering diabetes or heart disease when you suffer from OA.
So, what can you do about it? Well, here is the problem: there is no osteoarthritis treatment known to humankind. You can go to therapy to control the condition and treat the symptoms, but once started, the process cannot be reversed. If it worsens to the point that the cartilage wears out fully, your best move would be to undergo joint replacement surgery.
So, let’s look at the options, shall we?
Seek ideas on how to handle everyday tasks in a way that does not put extra tension on the problematic joint. For example, a therapist can suggest ways to brush your teeth without overburdening your fingers. Or, if osteoarthritis-affected your knees, they will provide guidance on how to shower without the pain of standing.
Even though you have a joint problem, you should not limit physical activity. Gentle exercise like walking or swimming might be beneficial for removing the pain and expanding the range of motion. An educated person can create a special programme for you, targeted at strengthening the muscles surrounding the troubled area. The stronger they get, the less stress will be placed on the joints, sparing the tissue.
Yoga and tai chi
Under normal conditions, these two therapies are used for stress relief. However, there is so much more to tai and chi yoga than that. Combined with breathing techniques, they might alleviate pain, improve flexibility and boost movement. On that note, they can positively affect osteoarthritis as well. Of course, you have got to seek a well-educated instructor to make the therapies risk-free. You don’t want to do exercises that cause you additional pain.
This is a medication that also goes by the name of Tylenol. Since it is a pain reliever, it is appropriate to use as an osteoarthritis treatment. It is capable of soothing mild to moderate pain.
Duloxetine (or Cymbalta) is another drug to use for chronic pain. Although it is commonly prescribed as an antidepressant, it has proven to have pain relief effects. That said, it can help with osteoarthritis pain.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
There is plethora of over-the-counter drugs that do a fantastic job at relieving osteoarthritis pain. Talk about diclofenac, naproxen sodium and ibuprofen, and everything in between. Along with those, there are NSAIDs that are stronger. But they are only available by prescription. Aside from dealing with the pain, they are also good at reducing inflammation. Mind you, they have side effects just like any other medication. Possible complications to expect include cardiovascular problems, kidney and liver damage, bleeding problems, and stomach upset.
A hyaluronic acid injection administered to the worn-out tissue can fill the gap caused by the thinning cartilage. It will create a cushioning effect in the joint. Or so we want to believe. Research has shown that its effect might as well be placebo-like. Yet, this is another option to try.
Corticosteroid medications injected into your joint are something to consider for your osteoarthritis treatment. Yet, there is a limit on the number of injections one can have annually. For the most part, you are permitted to get three to four of these each year.
As you would imagine, this is a surgical procedure. It is called arthroplasty. The damaged tissue is eliminated and replaced with metal or plastic parts. It has its risks, of course. For instance, there might be blood clots and infections following the treatment. Moreover, the artificial parts may come loose or wear down with time, which means they will need replacement.
This procedure is a helpful arthritis treatment if one side of the knee is damaged. A surgeon adds or eliminates a wedge of bone after cutting across the tissue either below or above the knee. That way the body weight shifts away from the troubled part of the knee.
Common Symptoms and Treatments of Rheumatoid Arthritis
What is peculiar about this type of arthritis is, not only does it affect the joints, but it may impact other parts of the body. As in the blood vessels, lungs, skin, and heart. It is an autoimmune disorder where the system tends to attack its own issues by mistake. The affected part is the lining of the joints (synovium). Over time, it may give rise to joint deformity or even bone erosion.
First, it works on the smaller joints like the ones that attach your toes to the feet and your fingers to the hands. Then, as it progresses, it moves on to larger areas, including non-joint structures. Think salivary glands, heart, eyes, skin, nerve tissue, kidneys, and bone marrow.
Symptoms of RA
- Weight loss
- Fever and fatigue
- Swollen, warm, tender joints
- Joint stiffness – most of the time, it is worse after inactivity (e.g. in the mornings)
The symptoms will come and go, but don’t get confused. The lack of signs doesn’t mean you are getting better, unfortunately. The disease will have periods of decreased activity followed by ones of increased activity.
There are many risk factors. Starting with environmental exposures, workers that get exposed to silica or asbestos have higher chances of triggering the disease. Smoking is another issue that may interfere with your immune system, especially if you have a genetic predisposition for RA. Like osteoarthritis, women tend to suffer from the disease more often than men. Lastly, obesity, age, and family history play a role too.
Additional Facts About RA
- Hormones play a role in triggering or preventing the disease
- The risk of women developing RA is 4%, whereas men face a 2% risk
- The onset of RA usually begins between ages 30-60 for women; however, when it comes to men, surprisingly, the disease develops later in life
- 60% of patients who do not treat RA adequately are not able to work a decade following the beginning of the disorder.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Unfortunately, rheumatoid arthritis cannot be healed completely. There are ways to control the disease. Remission might happen if the treatment begins as early as possible. Let’s have a look at the options.
It is an abbreviation for disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Common medications of this type include sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine, leflunomide, and methotrexate. They help to save the troubled tissues from permanent damage and can also slow disease progression. They might produce side effects like lung infections and liver damage in some patients.
Occupational and physical therapies
Remember we talked about that earlier. A specialist can teach you how to do everyday tasks without being harsh on your joints. They may also suggest using assistive devices to take the weight away from the damaged tissue.
These can help not only eliminate the pain, but also reduce inflammation. However, they also cause side effects such as diabetes, weight gain, thinning of bones, etc. A widely used corticosteroid drug is prednisone.
Biologic response modifiers
The drug is a new version of DMARDs. Its agents target certain areas in the body where inflammation has occurred. It is yet another rheumatoid arthritis treatment.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Check out the above paragraphs for more information about NSAIDs.
Rheumatoid arthritis may lead to a rupture in tendons around the joints. Surgery can help repair those. A surgeon makes small cuts in the skin enclosing the damaged tissue. The purpose is to reach the torn tendon. Then they sew together the ends. The procedure is executed under anaesthesia. It goes without saying that it bears risks. For example, it may cause joints stiffness, loss of joint use or scar tissue.
This is a procedure that targets the lining of the joint (synovium). It can be performed on different parts of the body, including wrists, elbows, hips, knees, and fingers. During the procedure, a doctor removes the affected synovial tissue. There are several ways to do that: radiological, chemical synovectomy, and surgical.
When nothing else works, you can have a total joint replacement. A plastic or metal prosthesis will be inserted in place of your damaged joint.
If you are in lots of pain or if your joint needs realignment, joint fusion is a surgical procedure that can get the job done. It is an alternative to joint replacement when the latter is not an option.
Both forms of arthritis can develop as a result of certain risk factors, be it genetic predisposition, age or obesity. So far, arthritis treatment revolves around removing the symptoms rather than eliminating the causes. Alas, no cure has been found to this day. However, if you stick with the right treatment and you make everyday activities less of a burden for your joints, you can slow the progression of the disorder and stay mobile.