Arthritis refers to more than 100 conditions that affect your joints and nearby tissues. These chronic conditions can often cause severe pain, making it difficult to perform everyday activities.
Fortunately, many cases of arthritis can be effectively managed and treated so you can experience relief from your symptoms. Here’s a closer look at the most common types of arthritis and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center when you’re ready to discuss your treatment options.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, reports the CDC. This form of arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones becomes worn down. It usually develops gradually over the years. Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis usually start mild and become worse over time. Osteoarthritis symptoms include:
- Pain in the affected joints while or after moving them.
- Stiffness in the joints, usually after waking up or after being inactive.
- Tenderness in the joints, especially when applying light pressure to the affected joint.
- Poor flexibility in the affected joints.
- Grating sensation when using the joint, along with popping or cracking.
- Bone spurs around the joint, which may feel like hard lumps.
- Swelling and inflammation around the joint.
Your risk for developing osteoarthritis increases as you grow older, and this disease is more common in women than in men.
Other risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
- Excess weight and obesity, which add stress to weight-bearing joints like those on the hips and knees.
- Joint injuries that may have occurred from an accident or sports.
- Repeated stress on the joint, such as from doing a certain type of work or playing a particular sport for many years.
- Bone deformities that developed in the womb.
Osteoarthritis cannot usually be reversed or cured. However, it can be effectively managed and treated using medications that relieve pain, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and cortisone injections, in some instances. Physical therapy can strengthen the muscle around your joint to reduce pain, while surgery may be used in severe cases to replace damaged joints beyond repair.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis is both an inflammatory and autoimmune type of arthritis. It occurs when your immune system targets healthy cells in your body by mistake to cause inflammation in your joints and tissues. RA affects the lining of your joints to cause painful swelling and increases the risk for joint deformity.
RA will often cause you to experience periods of flares and remission. Flares are times when symptoms get worse, and remission is when symptoms improve.
Symptoms of RA, according to the CDC, include:
- Pain or aching in more than one joint
- Tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in multiple joints
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
RA usually begins during middle age and tends to affect women more often than men. Other risk factors of RA include:
- Excess weight or obesity
- A family history of RA
- Being a woman who has never given birth
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are one of the most common treatments for RA. These drugs can slow the disease and prevent your joints from becoming deformed. Other treatments for RA include over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and steroid medications that reduce inflammation and joint damage. Joint replacement surgery is another treatment option for RA.
Fibromyalgia causes all-over body pain. In addition to whole-body pain, it can cause fatigue, sleep problems, and mood disorders like depression. The CDC reports that fibromyalgia affects about 2% of the U.S. adult population, which is about four million adults. It is thought to be caused by repeated nerve stimulation of the brain and spinal cord that increases the activity of brain chemicals that signal pain.
Fibromyalgia mainly causes three primary symptoms: widespread pain throughout the body, fatigue, and memory problems. These symptoms can often trigger other symptoms, including poor quality sleep, anxiety, and depression. Fibromyalgia may also cause tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, pain in the face or jaw, and digestion problems like constipation and diarrhea.
Like many other forms of arthritis, fibromyalgia occurs more in women than men. Other risk factors of fibromyalgia include having a family history of this disease and having an autoimmune disorder such as lupus or RA. The CDC says other potential risk factors of fibromyalgia include:
- Viral infections
- Stressful or traumatic events
- Repetitive injuries, such as bending your knees often
Fibromyalgia treatment usually focuses on reducing your symptoms and practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors that improve your quality of life. Medications used to treat this form of arthritis include OTC pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs that can reduce pain. Lifestyle behaviors that may improve fibromyalgia symptoms include regular exercise, stress management, a nutritious diet, and good sleep hygiene.
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can cause severe pain. It is characterized by sudden, severe gout attacks that can wake you up in the middle of the night. Pain caused by gout usually comes and goes in periods of flares and remission.
Gout symptoms usually come on suddenly and at night while you're sleeping. These flares can last for days or weeks and go away for days, weeks, or years.
Gout symptoms may include:
- Intense joint pain. This pain usually only affects the big toe but can also affect joints in the wrists, fingers, elbows, knees, and ankles.
- Ongoing discomfort after the severe pain goes away.
- Redness and inflammation of the affected joints.
- Limited range of motion in the affected joints.
The top risk factor for gout is having high uric acid levels in your body. Uric acid is produced by your body when it breaks down purines, which are found in foods including shellfish, bacon, veal, and alcohol. High uric acid levels can lead to uric acid crystals that build up inside joints and tissues to cause gout pain.
Other risk factors for gout include:
- Excess weight and obesity
- Being male
- Having a family history of gout
- Using certain medications, including low-dose aspirin and blood pressure medications
- Having one or more chronic medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes
- Drinking alcohol
Gout is commonly treated using medications that can reduce inflammation and gout attacks or flares. Medicines used to treat gout include OTC pain relievers, corticosteroids, and colchicine, which reduce inflammation and gout pain. Your doctor may also recommend changing your lifestyle to prevent flares, such as drinking less alcohol and eating foods containing little to no purines.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition when the immune system attacks its own healthy cells. It can cause severe joint pain and problems with your brain, lungs, heart, skin, and kidneys. Lupus can often be challenging to diagnose because it has the same symptoms as many other medical conditions.
Lupus symptoms can vary from one person to the next due to how it affects several different organs and parts of the body. Also, lupus symptoms can come on suddenly or gradually and last for short periods or long periods. Symptoms will even range from mild to severe.
Pain, stiffness, and joints swelling are among the most common symptoms of lupus. Other lupus symptoms may include:
- Confusion and memory loss
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Rash on the face that resembles a butterfly and that covers the nose and cheeks
- Skin lesions that become worse with sun exposure
- Dry eyes
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue in cold temperatures or during times of stress
- Heart and kidney problems
According to the CDC, lupus is most common in women of childbearing years between the ages of 15 and 44. The exact cause of lupus is unknown, though researchers suspect it may be triggered by sun exposure, infections, and the use of certain medications, including antibiotics and blood pressure medications. This form of arthritis tends to be most common in Hispanics, Asian Americans, and African Americans.
If you have lupus, your treatment will most likely revolve around the symptoms you’re experiencing. For example, suppose your most common symptoms are fever, joint pain, and headaches. In that case, your doctor may recommend taking OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen. Medications used to treat lupus include corticosteroids, hydroxychloroquine, biologics, and immunosuppressants.
Hydroxychloroquine is shown to reduce instances of lupus flares. Biologics such as belimumab may be used to reduce all lupus symptoms because they can slow or stop inflammation. Immunosuppressants work by suppressing your immune system to prevent or reduce lupus symptoms.
Treating Arthritis At Lompoc Valley Medical Center
At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we understand how challenging it can be to cope with arthritis-related pain. If you are experiencing joint pain and other symptoms of arthritis, we can work with you to properly diagnose and treat your condition so you can benefit from a higher quality of life. Contact us today at (805) 737-3382 to request an appointment and learn more about our many healthcare services.