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Frequently Asked Questions About Arthritis, Answered

Frequently Asked Questions About Arthritis, Answered

Arthritis is a debilitating and often life-changing disease that involves painfully inflamed joints.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by deterioration of cartilage and is the most common form of arthritis; however, there are more than 100 different types, including rheumatoid, psoriatic, fibromyalgia and gout. All forms of arthritis cause pain and in-part are non-preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) estimates that nearly half of all adults will experience arthritis by the time they’ve reached age 85. Arthritis, an autoimmune disease that involves the body producing antibodies that attack its own tissues, is most common in women due to biology, genetics, hormones and the prevalence of obesity in women.

According to the CDC, you can reduce your risk of developing arthritis by taking small steps, like making changes in your diet, exercising, reducing risk of injury and consulting your physician. If you’re already experiencing the symptoms of arthritis—joint pain, swelling, stiffness and fatigue—you may have a few questions that, once answered, will provide you with not only physical relief, but peace of mind.

We went to the experts at Altru Advanced Orthopedics to answer your questions about arthritis.

Dr. Leetun is an orthopedic surgeon with a focus in treatment of athletic and non-athletic injuries. Here’s what he had to say:

Is Arthritis Preventable?

Dr. Leetun: Nothing can absolutely prevent arthritis. However, appropriate activities, good shoe choices and injury avoidance all can be helpful to help prevent arthritis.

Does Diet Affect My Arthritis?

kneeDr. Leetun: Diet can affect arthritis if an individual becomes overweight because of poor diet choices. Increased weight gain causes excess stress on the knee and hip joints and can lead to increased pain.

What Exercises Can I Do With Arthritis?

Dr. Leetun: Low impact exercise for those with hip and knee arthritis are best. Well-cushioned shoes are recommended. Pool walking or pool exercises are good way to exercise when one has hip or knee arthritis to take a load off of the degenerative joints. Flexibility and stretching as well as muscle conditioning and strengthening also can help arthritis. Physical therapists at Altru can coordinate an appropriate exercise program for those living with arthritis.

Should I Be Placed on Medication for My Arthritis?

Dr. Leetun: Medications can be helpful for arthritis. Options can be directed through an individual’s primary provider and may include anti-inflammatories, glucosamine chondroitin sulfate and Tylenol.

What Alternative Practices Are Available to Manage My Arthritis?

Dr. Leetun: Therapeutic massage, as well as acupuncture or acupressure, can be beneficial.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that frequently develops in small joints first, like the hands. Dr. Brad Meland is a hand and plastic surgeon specializing in hand, wrist and nerve surgery. He weighs in on the topic:

woman holding her wristIs Arthritis of the Hand More Common Than Other Parts of the Body?

Dr. Meland: Not necessarily. All joints of the body can be affected by arthritis. The hand is probably thought to be most common because the hand is used more and affects the patient’s activities more frequently

How Does Hand Arthritis Affect Daily Life?

Dr. Meland: Hand arthritis affects daily life by causing pain, weakness and loss of function that may affect work, play and daily activities.

What Is the Treatment for It/or How Is It Managed?

Dr. Meland: The treatment is specific to the joints involved. It starts with medications then therapy, splints, steroid injections and lastly surgery.

How Common Is Hand Surgery as a “Cure?”

Dr. Meland: Hand surgery is not a cure for any type of arthritis. Its purpose is first to alleviate pain thus improve function. This may include limited joint fusions, artificial appliances or joint replacements. This may limit range of motion but for the most part function is dramatically improved. The surgery requires prolonged therapy.

Is Hand Arthritis More Common in Men or Women?

Dr. Meland: There are several different types of arthritis. Some are more common in women some in men. By far, the most common arthritis seen in the hand is in the base of the thumb, and it is more common in women.

If you think you have arthritis or are concerned with your current state of health, contact a physician. The physicians at Altru Advanced Orthopedics are ready to listen and provide exceptional care. Learn more about the comprehensive care offered at Altru Advanced Orthopedics at altru.org/ortho.