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SIMPLE WORDS ABOUT ARTHRITIS
Half of all people over 65 have arthritis. Most causes of the 100 varieties of arthritis are unknown. All forms of arthritis cause pain and loss of movement in joints. It can be chronic which means years in duration. Learning to accommodate to the disease and pain is imperative. In older people, the most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
OSTEOARTHRITIS (OA) is also known as degenerative joint disease, or DJD. It is the most common non-inflammatory arthritic disease. OA most often affects the joints of the hands, knees, ankles and hips. Early in the disease, pain occurs after activity and rest brings relief. Later, pain occurs with minimal movement or while resting. Research indicates several factors that produce OA in different joints. OA in the hands and hips probably has a genetic component. Obesity is linked to OA in the knees. Injuries or overuse may relate to OA in knees, hips and elbows.
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (RA) affects multiple body systems, it varies in severity and it can be very disabling. Symptoms include morning stiffness, swelling in three or more joints, swelling of the hands and wrists, swelling of the same joints on both sides of the body blood and x-ray changes. RA affects women three times more often than men. Joint deformity can occur. The cause is unknown, but seems to be linked to genetics and to a breakdown in the immune system.
GOUT is a metabolic disorder that strikes both genders equally in middle to old age. Toes, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and hands are affected. Acute attacks are very painful. The most frequent site is the big toe. Swelling can stretch the skin, leading to additional pain and tenderness. Deposits of uric acid crystals in and around joints are very treatable but can have severe consequences if ignored.
There are approximately 13,000 people in Rich Township over the age of 65. Arthritis affects at least half of them. There is treatment that offers some relief from pain. There is treatment that can prevent additional disability once the disease is present. The main categories of intervention for arthritic diseases are pharmaceutical, nutritional and mechanical. An additional consideration is attitude management, the maintenance of a positive outlook and demeanor, despite discomfort and limitation.
The primary treatment for osteoarthritis is to treat the symptoms. Aspirin is the most commonly recommended non-steroid pain reliever. Taking the prescribed medication at regular intervals prevents pain from becoming severe and thus allows more regular physical activity. A program of rest and activity is important to prevent additional deterioration. Weight reduction and correction of body mechanics that cause strain reduces stress on affected joints. A well balanced diet with plenty of water, physical therapy with heat , ultrasound and massage can also promote comfort.
Many cases of rheumatoid arthritis are slow to respond to treatment. Drug therapy categories include non-steroid anti-inflammatory agents, phenylbutazone, indomethacin, gold salts, and hydroxychloroquine. All medications can have side effects that must also be treated. Medications may be taken orally or by injection on a regular basis, to control the episodes of pain, reduce inflammation and arrest the disease cycle. Dosages are very specific and individualized. It is imperative to work with a physician to arrive at the best course of effective treatment. Referral to a specialist, a rheumatologist, is usually indicated.
Three types of drugs are used to treat gout. (1) drugs to control the acute inflammation include colchicine, indomethacin or phenylbutazone. (2) drugs to increase the excretion of uric acid by the kidneys include probenecid and sulfinpyrazone. (3) drugs to reduce the production of uric acid such as allopurinol. In addition,dietary restrictions are usually prescribed by the physician.
The patient with accurate information better manages all chronic illness, by making pro-health choices and by taking appropriate action. All medicines used to treat the common forms of arthritis must be taken exactly as directed. Timing is essential. Alcohol must be avoided. Your physician and your nurse can help you understand the complicated nature of your illness and the course of treatment that gives you the best chance of living well with a potentially disabling chronic illness.
For Further Information: Arthritis Foundation