You’ve probably heard the word arthritis before. And now, you may be wondering if it could be affecting you. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint, and it’s used to describe more than 100 different diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround joints, and other connective tissue. Arthritis can affect people differently. It’s common in adults 65 and older, but it can affect people of all ages, races and ethnic groups. In fact, one out of every five adults in the United States—over 46 million people—has reported being diagnosed by their doctor with some form of arthritis.
Two of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have different causes, risk factors, and effects on the body:
• Osteoarthritis pain, stiffness, or inflammation most frequently appears in the hips, knees, and hands.
• Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the hands and wrists but can also affect areas of the body other than the joints.
Even though they have these differences, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis often share common symptoms:
• joint pain
• inflammation or swelling
The importance of talking to your doctor
Sometimes arthritis symptoms make it harder to do certain activities. By talking to your doctor about your symptoms, he or she may help you find other ways to continue doing some of those activities. Your doctor can also help evaluate your current treatment and may recommend other, more effective ways to help you manage your arthritis. The sooner you take action and talk to your doctor, the sooner you can start managing your arthritis symptoms more effectively. Part of taking an active role in managing your arthritis is knowing what your treatment options are. An informed decision made with your doctor can be one of the best decisions you can make to help you get effective symptom relief. It’s important to understand that although there is no way to reverse the cartilage loss of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, there are treatment options available to help you relieve the symptoms. These can include: medications, exercise, diet, alternative therapies and surgery. Your doctor may even suggest combining several treatment options to more effectively manage your arthritis symptoms. Every situation is different, so discuss your symptoms and your lifestyle with your doctor so you can work together for the best option or options for you. Medication can help you manage arthritis symptoms, but there are other things you can do in addition to medication.
• Follow a healthy diet.
• Find a balance between physical activities (like walking or water aerobics) and rest.
• Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions about arthritis or your treatment.
• Use books, magazines, and online resources to learn more about arthritis and stay up to date on new developments in medicine and treatment options.
Keep working with your doctor
• Talk to your doctor about changes in your arthritis symptoms to help him or her determine the right treatment for you.
• Always take your medication as your doctor prescribes.
• Be sure to report any changes in your health or any side effects that you may experience.
Your doctor needs that information to make sure that your treatment is the right one for you.
Every year, new products may be available that can help you with arthritis symptoms, protect your joints from painful moves, or improve your ability to perform daily tasks.
Look for items like:
• special garden trowels
• elastic shoelaces
• foot warmers
• electric jar openers
• massaging heating pads
• dual-handle sock assists
• one-touch table lamps
• electric toothbrushes
• reacher aids
• arthritis bras
• long-handled brushes and combs.