What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term meaning joint inflammation. However, arthritis is not limited to disorders involving the joints. Each form of arthritis requires its own specific treatment. Therefore it is very important to know the type of arthritis you have. Since great advances have been made over recent years in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis, it is no longer inevitable that a diagnosis indicates a lifetime of pain and misery with little relief. If you suspect you have arthritis, you should consult your physician or a rheumatologist, an arthritis specialist. Again, it is important to know the type of arthritis you have so that it can be treated most effectively.
What are the Warning Signs of Arthritis?
What is Rheumatology and How Can It Help?
Rheumatology is a
branch of internal medicine dedicated to the scientific study and treatment
of inflammatory disorders. An individual is recognized as a rheumatologist
(arthritis expert) if the physician has completed several years of specialized
training in the treatment of rheumatic disorders after medical school.
Additionally, he or she is said to be board-certified if the physician
has successfully completed both the intensive training and a certifying
exam from the American Board of Internal Medicine.
The most common reason
for a patient to seek help from a rheumatologist is for the evaluation
of significant muscle or joint pain. Since most forms of arthritis result
in pain, the first goal of the rheumatologist is to find out the cause
of the pain.
The guidelines for proper diagnosis of rheumatic disorders include a complete medical history, comprehensive physical examination, specific blood tests, and diagnostic x-rays. Once this information has been evaluated, a specific diagnosis can be made, and an individualized program of treatment can be implemented. A treatment program may include the use of anti-inflammatory medications that combat the arthritis, instruction in specific exercises to maintain joint mobility and finally, specific dietary modification to reduce joint stress. These diagnostic and treatment programs are the rheumatologists specialty.
What Kind of Medications are Used?
To understand the
rationale behind the use of certain arthritis medications, it is first
necessary to understand some basic facts concerning arthritis. The term
arthritis is used to mean inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues.
There are many causes
of such inflammation. Inflammation is the bodys natural way to fight
disease. However, when the inflammation becomes out of control and affects
the joints and surrounding tissues, arthritis occurs. Furthermore, when
inflammation continues for long periods of time, joint damage may occur.
The main goal in arthritis treatment and therapy is to reduce the inflammatory
One form of therapy
involves the use of anti-inflammatory medications. These medications have
been scientifically proven to reduce the inflammation of arthritis. Once
the inflammation decreases, the pain and swelling so often associated
with the arthritis improves as well. Anti-inflammatory medications can
be very powerful and often reduce the painful symptoms of arthritis within
a few weeks.
There are many effective
medications available for the treatment of arthritis. Each medication
is different, and the one that is used for you should be tailored to your
type of arthritis. Prior to starting any medication, an accurate diagnosis
Most arthritis medications are safe. However, some patients do experience side effects. Rheumatologists are aware of the potential side effects and problems patients may face. Their specialized training enables them to instruct their patients in a manner that is both safe and effective.
How Can I Find Out if My Rheumatologist is Board Certified?
Click here to find out if your Rheumatologist is Board Certified.
Is Nutrition Important?
has been of interest in the treatment of rheumatic illnesses for a long
period of time. However, recent scientific research has given us some
very interesting clues on how this manipulation may be applied to future
treatment of some forms of arthritis.
You are now familiar
with the rheumatologists central role in establishing a treatment
program based on an individuals arthritis diagnosis. Included in
this program will be certain medications and exercises designed to reduce
joint inflammation and joint stress. The evaluation may also include an
assessment of an individuals nutritional status.
facts are known about rheumatic illnesses. Vitamin C is important in the
synthesis of collagen (a protein contained in joints), and a severe lack
of vitamin C can result in a specific type of arthritis (scurvy). Patients
with chronic arthritis can develop a protein deficiency and may need supplemental
foods. When the arthritis involves weight-bearing joints such as the hips
or knees, a gradual weight reduction program may be indicated.
Arthritis is due to joint inflammation. Medications used to treat arthritis attempt to control the bodys inflammatory response, thereby reducing inflammation. Exciting new studies in animals have shown that diets rich in certain fish oils have been able to modify this inflammatory response, and retard the progression of some forms of arthritis.
Does Exercise Help?
One of the questions
most commonly asked by my patients is whether exercise is helpful in the
treatment of arthritis. My answer is usually affirmative. However, the
type of exercise depends on the type of arthritis and the joints involved.
The purpose of therapeutic exercise is not only to maintain joint flexibility
and muscle strength, but also to increase the patients ability to
perform daily activities. Active exercise is usually recommended for those
patients with joint disorders.
The exercises used
are a combination of isometric and isotonic contractions. In isometric
exercises, muscle strength is gained with minimal joint motion. These
exercises are considered to be ideal for maintaining muscle strength in
patients with joint inflammation. Active isotonic exercise can be used
to increase endurance, range of motion of the joint, and to increase strength.
When joint pain occurs,
it is natural to rest the joint. However, strict rest can be harmful.
shown that a muscle can lose 30% of its bulk in one week, and can lose
3% of its function per day when maintained at strict rest. Keep in mind,
however, that patients should be cautious because over-exercise can damage
the joints. Signs of excessive exercise include persistent pain, fatigue,
weakness and joint swelling.
Rheumatologists have been trained in counseling and designing specific therapeutic exercise programs tailored to an individuals arthritis. If you suffer from arthritis, exercise should be a part of your therapy. However, before undertaking an exercise program you should consult your physician.
What are Signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Burning, tingling and/or numbness involving the thumb, 2nd and 3rd finger.
Click here to learn more about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
© 2015, The Arthritis Institute of Long Island, NY