Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: May 2017 - Arthritis

    May 03, 2017

    Arthritis is a common disease of the joints of your body.  A joint is a part of your body where the bones meet (like in the knee, fingers or neck). People who have arthritis have pain and stiffness in their joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 1 in 5 people over age 18 have some kind of arthritis. There are over 100 types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, Each hurts joints in different ways. The chart below shows the difference between the two.

     

    Osteoarthritis (OA)

    Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

    What is arthritis?

    OA is a disease of “wear and tear”, or overuse. Over many years, the coating between the bones at your joints becomes rough and worn down.

    RA is caused when your body’s infection fighting system (immune system) starts attacking your joints. RA can destroy the joints, and affect your whole body. Finding out if you have RA and treating it early can prevent damage to your joints and the rest of your body.

    What puts you at risk to get the disease?

    • Age: men usually feel OA pains after 45 years of age. Women after 55.
    • Women are affected more than men.
    • Joint injury: getting hurt while playing a sport or in an accident increases the chance of having OA.
    • Being overweight: those extra pounds increase the risk of developing OA, especially in the knees, hips and back.
    • Family history
     
    • Age: RA most often sets in between the ages of 40 – 60.
    • Women are affected more than men
    • Smoking.
    • Being overweight
    • Family history

     

    What are the symptoms?

    • Pain
    • Stiffness, mainly in the morning or after not moving for a while
    • Less range of motion, joints are not as flexible as before
    • Clicks or other sounds when you move your joint
     
    • Tender, warm, swollen joints
    • Stiffness that is worse in the morning but may last for a long time
    • Being tired
    • Fever
    • Weight loss
     

    What is the treatment?

    • Exercise: gentle movement, such as swimming or walking, can help. Yoga is an example of gentle exercise.
    • Physical Therapy (PT): PT builds muscles. Using muscles and not the joints when you move helps with pain.
    • Medicine: your doctor can tell you what medicine will help. Two choices are acetaminophen (like in Tylenol) or ibuprofen (like in Advil). Be sure to take the drugs the way your doctor says. They can cause liver or kidney damage if taken the wrong way.
    • Surgery: if your OA gets very bad, your doctor may suggest a joint replacement. This is when the worn out joint is removed and a new one is put in (made of metal or ceramic or plastic).  This is often done after all the above steps have not worked.

     

    • Medicine: people who have RA may have to take medicines to help with the symptoms.      
      • NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): you do not need a prescription to buy these medications.  Some common names of NSAIDs are Advil and Aleve.
      • Steroids: steroids reduce swelling. These are not the type of steroids that bulk up your muscles.   
      • Narcotic medications: these are very powerful and can have many side effects. These medications, like Percocet and Tylenol #3, are used only for an acute episode of pain and for a very short time.  They require special prescriptions. Overuse can lead to addiction and serious health problems.
      • DMARDS (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs): medicines made for people with RA and effect the immune system.  They slow down RA and can help save the joints. Some examples are Enbrel (etanercept) and Humira (adalimumab). However, these medications can have side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects.

    ŸPhysical Therapy: PT builds your muscles. Using muscles and not your joints when you move helps reduce pain.

    • Exercise: talk with your doctor before you exercise. Find out which type of exercise would be good for you to do.   
    • Surgery: if your RA gets very bad, your doctor may suggest a joint replacement. This is when the worn out joint is removed and a new one is put in (made of metal or ceramic or plastic). This is often done after all the above steps have not worked.
     

    Take charge of your health…

    • Exercise
    • Lose weight
    • Use heat to get rid of stiffness, cold can get rid of some pain.
    • Some creams sold in drug stores may help with pain.
    • Assistive devices, like a cane, can help you walk. Tools may help with tasks such as opening a jar or reaching up into a cabinet.
     
    • Take medication as your doctor tells you
    • Do gentle exercise such as chair yoga or swimming.
    • Use heat to get rid of stiffness. Cold can get rid of some pain.
    • Relax: ease the stress in your life.
    • Assistive devices, like a cane, can help you walk. Tools may help with tasks such as opening a jar or reaching up into a cabinet.
     

    To Learn More:
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/types.html

    Sources:
    Arthritis Foundation: http://www.arthritis.org/new-york/
    Patient Education Center - Harvard Medical School: http://www.patienteducationcenter.org/
    Mayo Clinic:  Search: "Osteoarthritis” or “Rheumatoid Arthritis”: http://www.mayoclinic.org/    
    WebMD: “Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis – Treatment”:  http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/treatment-care-rheumatoid-arthritis


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