Arthritis is a painful condition that affects millions of Americans every year. The disease causes inflammation and swelling in joints throughout the body, making everyday activities such as walking or standing very uncomfortable. There are over 100 types of arthritis, each with its own symptoms and treatment options. Some forms of arthritis can be treated with medication alone, while other states require surgery or joint replacement. With advances in medical science, new treatments and diagnostic tools have become available to treat arthritis pain and improve quality of life. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the latest developments in diagnosing and treating arthritis.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a term that refers to joint pain or joint disease. People of all ages and sexes can have arthritis, though it is most common in women and older people. The most common arthritis symptoms are swelling, pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in joints, and typically symptoms come and go. Symptoms can progress and get worse with time. Severe arthritis can cause chronic pain and irreversible joint damage that may prevent people from performing daily activities.
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis primarily plagues the hands, spine, hips, and knees. In the past, doctors believed osteoarthritis was caused by “wear and tear” on a joint’s cartilage typically due to age. Now, osteoarthritis is widely recognized as a degenerative disorder that affects the whole joint, rather than just the cartilage. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks your own body tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis normally affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees.
Diagnosing arthritis can be difficult due to the variety of symptoms and various types of arthritis. Many symptoms are similar across all types of arthritis, like joint pain. Diagnosis of arthritis can only be done by a healthcare provider. There are several ways a provider can go about diagnosing arthritis in a patient. The first step is to examine the patient’s medical history. A healthcare provider may ask questions like:
- Has the patient had any recent illnesses and injuries that the pain can be attributed to?
- Is there a family history of arthritis?
- What medications is the patient currently taking?
After analyzing the patient’s medical history, the doctor will take a look at the patient’s range of motion in the joints where symptoms are occurring.
Developments in arthritis diagnosis have made it possible for doctors to use imaging tests to detect various types of arthritis. Providers can use X-rays to reveal cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs. While X-rays do not help detect early arthritis, they can track the progression of the condition. CTs and MRIs take a variety of images from different angles and create a composite image of the joint or internal structures. This allows doctors to view what is happening in the joints and determine if arthritis is present.
Doctors can also test blood, urine, and joint fluid to determine if arthritis is present. To obtain joint fluid, doctors perform a procedure called arthrocentesis. Doctors cleanse and numb the skin around the joint, and then insert a needle into the joint space to draw fluid. Since there are many forms of arthritis, it is important to get it diagnosed so your doctor can determine the best treatment plan.
There is no known cure for arthritis, but doctors and scientists around the world work tirelessly to discover new medications and therapies that ease the symptoms that patients experience. Thanks to their efforts, it is uncommon for people to experience inflammatory arthritis in multiple joints.
Medication and Therapies
The invention of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) has changed the landscape for treating rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs alleviate inflammation and joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. These medications can even slow the progression of the illness. Most traditional DMARDs are taken orally, like Methotrexate. Biologic DMARDs are a newer form of drug that targets the specific proteins that fuel symptoms. Different biological DMARDs target different proteins. For example, abatacept interferes with immune system cells called T-cells which creates inflammation. Unlike traditional DMARDs, biologic DMARDs must be taken either under the skin (subcutaneously) or by vein (intravenously).
Doctors and scientists are constantly searching for new treatments and therapies to reduce or reverse the effects of arthritis. Recent research has shown that subcutaneous injections of a liquid called tanezumab, which is a monoclonal anti-NGF antibody, may slow the progression of osteoarthritis in the knees and hips. Other studies show that tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers can improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and slow the illness’s progression. TNF is a chemical in the body that contributes to inflammation. The primary goal of all of these studies is to improve the availability of arthritis treatments.
For those with an arthritis diagnosis, there are also several types of surgery available to arthritic patients including, orthopedic surgery and total joint replacement surgery. Reach out to Greenbrook Medical today to learn more about your options for arthritis treatment!
We Want to Help You!
At Greenbrook Medical, we believe that every senior citizen should be cared for and treated with respect. That’s why we have made it our mission to provide the best possible care for our patients. Contact us today for a consultation or to request an appointment with one of our geriatric doctors!