Take pain in your own hands


Arthritis affects millions of Americans and is one of the most diagnosed ailments in the world. This disorder is caused by inflammation of the joints, leading to swelling, pain and difficulty with daily tasks.

Arthritis impacts the lives of about 58.5 million people, with about 1 in 4 US adults (23.7 percent) having been actually diagnosed by their provider with the disease. Arthritis is more prevalent in women (23.5 percent), compared to men (18.1 percent). The condition affects those who are in fair to poor health more often than adults in excellent or very good health (40.5 percent vs 15.4 percent).

Adults who are psychically active, and meet daily activity recommendations, present at only 18.1 percent versus sedentary adults (23.6) and those adults who are minimally active (23.1 percent). Advanced age is also a big factor in the increased risk and prevalence of this disease.

There are three main types of arthritis that are similar, but have different origins and some differences in the symptoms presented:

• Osteoarthritis is usually attributed to age and will most often affect fingers, knees, and hips. Osteoarthritis will most often follow a joint injury. An example of this is a bad knee injury occurring in youth, that develops into arthritis in the knee joint in later, older years and age. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage of the body (the hard and slippery tissue covering the ends of bones at the point they form a joint) to begin breaking down.

• Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder or disease, and with this condition the individual’s immune system attacks parts of the body, especially the lining of the joints of the body.

• Psoriatic arthritis is also an inflammatory, autoimmune, condition that affects both joints of the body and skin. While the specific cause of psoriatic arthritis is not completely understood, it is believed that an overproduction of specific molecules in the body causes an activation of the multiple symptoms of this type arthritis.

The early warning signs of arthritis may include joint stiffness in the morning, often when the individual first wakes up; joint stiffness, as the diseases

progresses; numbness and tingling, and chronic fatigue, with a low grade fever often accompanying rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Treatment for this disease may include both eastern and western medical philosophies, with some opting to try acupuncture, and certain herbs and supplements to ease the symptoms, and both prescription and over the counter medications available for pain, swelling and low grade fever. Heating pads may be used by some patients, as well as certain arthritis and pain creams and body rubs.

In cases of extreme joint problems there may be joint replacement surgeries recommended, including knee, hip, and shoulders often replaced as a direct result of arthritis. In some cases there are procedures that involve placing spacing material or medication into the joint space to ease the pain and aid in cushioning of the surrounding tissues in joint movement.

Further information may be found online, at multiple resource and research organizations. The best advice, to begin with, is to speak directly with your medical provider and request specific testing to determine if you are experiencing this disease. The testing is non invasive, and will often include radiological testing (X-ray, CT scan, MRI), as well as physical examination and laboratory testing to rule out an autoimmune problem.

Betty Cohn is a retired registered nurse with 35 years of experience in the medical field in a variety of roles. She will write a semi-monthly column about medical-related topics and welcomes questions and suggestions at bospangle@yahoo.com.