Joint pain may be sign of arthritis

DOVER –– According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions and the foundation uses the month of May to make the public more aware of these conditions.

The second most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis which most commonly effects fingers, wrists, feet and the top of the neck. Pain from rheumatoid arthritis is caused primarily from inflammation. (Bing photo)

The second most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis which most commonly effects fingers, wrists, feet and the top of the neck. Pain from rheumatoid arthritis is caused primarily from inflammation.
(Bing photo)

Dr. Jinsong Zhang, a rheumatologist (joint, soft tissue and autoimmune specialist) at Infusion Solutions of Delaware, said the most common arthritis symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Less common symptoms are redness or elevated temperature around the joint.

“It’s always most important to meet with the patient and get their medical history and family history to determine if it is arthritis and from there we can determine which type,” he said.

Dr. Zhang added that people of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis and depending on the type, can experience symptoms as early as infancy, but the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis which comes along with increased age and/or previous joint injury. Symptoms usually begin later in life when cartilage wears down and causes aching or sharp pain.

“Osteoarthritis occurs in joints you use the most and weight-bearing joints like the knees, back and hips,” Dr. Zhang said.

In the instance of osteoarthritis, Dr. Zhang said a comprehensive treatment plan is the most effective method and symptoms can be managed with exercise, weight loss, physical therapy and wearing braces on the effected joints during activity.

For rheumatoid arthritis, there are various courses of action to reduce symptoms depending on the severity of the case, but for the most part, treatment is focused on reducing joint inflammation, most easily achieved through medication.

For mild cases, over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and Aleve can be enough, but there are stronger prescription alternatives for more severe cases.

Unlike osteoarthritis, Dr. Zhang said there is no known cause of rheumatoid arthritis so the best people can do it work to manage their symptoms.

“There are many theories out there right now, one doctor even thinks that it may stem from oral bacteria, but none of these theories have been proven as the cause of rheumatoid arthritis,” he said.

The Arthritis Foundation estimates that about 58 million Americans are living with physician-diagnosed arthritis. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, these people may have difficultly or the inability to do daily activities like walking or climbing stairs.

Arthritic conditions also keep millions of people out of work each year, losing more than 172 million hours of work collectively while racking up $156 billion in medical bills every year.

It’s important to see a physician if you are experiencing joint pain which may be related to arthritis. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes and long-term, irreversible damage.

Typically, a general practitioner will assess a patient’s symptoms and if they show to be arthritic, the patient will be referred to a rheumatologist who will follow through with care.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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