Inflammation Information: May Is National Arthritis Awareness Month
Post written by Lauren Lindstadt, Physician Assistant at Kansas City Internal Medicine
May is National Arthritis Month so it’s a great time to enhance your knowledge and awareness of the disease that affects so many individuals and families.
Please take this opportunity to educate yourself on what arthritis is, how you can take control of the disease, and what role Kansas City Internal Medicine can play.
- Arthritis walk – http://www.arthritis.org/arthritis-walk/
- Jingle BellRun/Walk – http://www.arthritis.org/jingle-bell-run/
- Programs for Better Living – http://www.arthritis.org/programs/
Currently, there are about 50 million people diagnosed with arthritis in the United States. Arthritis is the nation’s most common cause of disability, limiting the activities of 21 million Americans and causing 1 of 3 working-age adults (aged 18–65 years) to report work limitations.
Arthritis comprises more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and gout. Common arthritis symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in or around the joints. Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.
Quick Facts on the Most Common Types of Arthritis
- The most common type of arthritis, also called degenerative joint disease.
- Chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage – the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows for easy movement.
- Symptoms include joint pain or stiffness and cracking or grinding with joint movement.
- There is no cure for OA, but with a mixture of physical measures and drug therapy joint pain can be reduced and joint function can be improved.
Weight loss and exercise are crucial in OA. Physical activity on a regular basis helps strengthen muscles and bones, increase flexibility and stamina, improve your general sense of well-being and can help lower the chance of disability due to OA .
Excess weight puts stress on your knee joints, hips and low back. For every 10 pounds of weight you lose over 10 years, you can reduce the chance of developing knee OA by up to 50%. Further, every pound lost reduces the burden on the knees by 4 pounds.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen) are common first line oral options.
- NSAIDs should be used at their lowest effective dose due to their potential to cause GI and renal adverse affects.
- Patients should keep in mind that the response to a specific NSAID differs from one patient to another.
- Topical treatments including capsaicin cream, lidocaine and diclofenac gel are good, safe options for pain relief.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
- An inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disease.
- In RA the immune system, which is designed to protect our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria, instead attacks the body’s own tissues, specifically the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints.
- Joint pain, swelling, and redness are common symptoms and sometimes joint damage can lead to deformity.
- The inflammatory process initiated by the immune system can also attack other organs such as the heart and lungs and lead to other health problems.
- There is no cure for RA, but highly effective treatments exist. Current treatments give most patients good or excellent relief of symptoms and let them keep functioning at, or near, normal levels. Once you have a diagnosis of RA, you should begin treatment right away to slow disease progression and lower chances for joint damage. Discuss the variety of treatment options for RA with your rheumatologist.
- Form of inflammatory arthritis that causes sudden, severe pain, swelling and tenderness most often in the large joint of the big toe.
- Can affect other joints including the feet, ankles, knees, hands, wrists, elbows and sometimes soft tissue and tendons.
- Occurs when excess uric acid (a normal waste product) accumulates in the body and needle like crystals deposit in the joints.
- Gout can be treated with different medication options which should be tailored for each individual. It is also possible to reduce gout attacks by avoiding alcohol and certain food triggers such as fish and red meats.
Taking Control of Your Arthritis
Early diagnosis and appropriate management of arthritis, including self-management activities, can help people with arthritis decrease pain, improve function, stay productive, and lower health care costs.
Be Active – Research has shown that physical activity decreases pain, improves function, and delays disability. Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 days a week. You can get activity in 10-minute intervals. Read about the physical activity programs (such as Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program and Enhance Fitness) the CDC recommends for people with arthritis.
Watch Your Weight – The prevalence of arthritis increases with increasing weight. Research suggests that maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of developing arthritis and may decrease disease progression. A loss of just 11 pounds can decrease the occurrence (incidence) of new knee osteoarthritis and a modest weight loss (55 lbs) can help reduce pain and disability.
See Your Doctor – Although there is no cure for most types of arthritis, early diagnosis and appropriate management is important, especially for inflammatory types of arthritis such as RA. If you have symptoms of arthritis, see your doctor and begin appropriate management of your condition.
Protect Your Joints – Joint injury can lead to osteoarthritis. People who experience sports or occupational injuries or have jobs with repetitive motions like repeated knee bending have more osteoarthritis. Avoid joint injury to reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Tips for Managing Pain
Keep A Positive Attitude - Arthritis may limit some of the things you can do, but it doesn’t have to control your life. One way to reduce your pain is to build your life around wellness, not pain or sickness. This means:
- Thinking positive thoughts
- Having a sense of humor
- Eating a balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Surrounding yourself with positive people
- Enjoying activities with family and friends
It also means following your treatment plan, taking your medication properly and practicing relaxation.
Don’t Focus On Pain - The amount of time you spend thinking about pain has a lot to do with how much discomfort you feel. People who dwell on their pain usually say their pain is worse than those who don’t dwell on it. Take your mind off the pain and focus on something else.
Everyone Has The Ability To Distract Themselves From Pain - The more you focus on something outside your body, such as a hobby or other activity, the less you will be aware of physical discomfort. If you can’t avoid thinking about the pain, try to think of it differently. Think of pain as your body’s message to do something different. For example, if your pain is worse after sitting for a period of time, your body may be telling you to get up and move around.
Educate yourself and take control of your disease. Being proactive in treating your arthritis can lead to a better quality of life and reduce joint damage. Use the month of May to make a change and take action so you can better cope with arthritis.
KCIM’s Role in Treating Your Arthritis
Rheumatologists are doctors who are experts in diagnosing and treating arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. KCIM has several Rheumatologists and midlevel providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners who specialize in managing arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Check out the Rheumatology page on our web site for more information and then call us for a consultation.
Additional Arthritis Resources
- Centers for Disease Control (Arthritis page) - http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/
- Arthritis Foundation - http://www.arthritis.org/
- American College of Rheumatology - http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/