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Arthritis and How to Find Relief

Arthritis is a very common, albeit very misunderstood disease. Arthritis refers to a myriad of joint diseases or joint pain – more than 100 different types exist according to the Arthritis Foundation. The most familiar symptoms of arthritis are pain and swelling in the joints of a person's hands, feet, knees, elbows, shoulders, hips or even the neck or spine. The symptoms are not always present and can range in severity from mild to severely debilitating, depending on the person, their genetics and overall health. Arthritis pain can exist for years without any change, but over time the damage to the joints can result in chronic pain and the inability to perform daily activities.

There are a few different categories of arthritis: degenerative, inflammatory, infectious and metabolic. To diagnose what category of arthritis a person has, a doctor can perform blood tests and imaging scans. An arthritis specialist will become involved depending on the type of arthritis and the acuteness of the diagnosis. The results of the initial tests also determine if other healthcare specialists need to become involved in the care plan for arthritis. Orthopedic surgeons, dermatologists and even dentists can be part of the care team depending on the severity and type of arthritis.

Types of Arthritis & How to Treat Them

Degenerative arthritis is the most common type. Known as osteoarthritis it occurs when the cartilage at the ends of bones rubs away, causes bone-on-bone friction that brings with it swelling, pain and stiffness. As joints lose strength over time, the pain can become chronic and quite unpleasant. If the pain is mild, a person can manage the pain with over-the-counter pain relievers, the use of hot/cold therapies, assistive devices and avoiding repetitive movement.

Inflammatory arthritis includes rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis and is triggered by autoimmune disorders that cause the body to attack its own joints with inflammation that can erode joints and damage internal organs. Why certain persons are plagued with autoimmunity is still an area of research, but many doctors think it is a combination of genetics and environmental risk factors. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is crucial to slow the progression of inflammatory arthritis and help a person minimize joint damage.

Infectious arthritis is caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus. Inflammation occurs when one of these foreign organisms enters the joint. This kind of arthritis is usually cleared by use of antibiotics to rid the joint of the infection, but in some cases chronic pain may develop.

Metabolic arthritis occurs when a person has abnormally high levels of uric acid that the body cannot process quickly enough. Uric acid is naturally formed in the body, but when a person has too much, the acid builds up inside a joint forming tiny spiked crystals that can cause extreme pain or even gout. If metabolic arthritis is determined to be the diagnosis, working with a doctor to put uric acid levels back into check is important.

Risk factors for arthritis include:

Age: Older persons are more likely to have degenerative or rheumatoid arthritis as well as gout

Sex: Men are more likely to develop metabolic arthritis (gout), while women run a higher risk of inflammatory arthritis

Family History: Arthritis has been known to run in families, and your particular genes can make you more likely to develop the disease

Obesity: being overweight puts a tremendous amount of strain on the joints of our bodies. People who are overweight stand an increased chance of developing arthritis in their knees, hips and spine because of the undue pressure being put on the body due to the excess pounds.

Previous Injuries: a sports injury to a joint often leads to chronic pain and the development of arthritis later in life. A young person who withstands a shoulder injury has a greater chance of developing arthritis in that shoulder later in life due to the trauma sustained by the shoulder joints.

Exercise and a Healthy Diet Can Help with Arthritis

As if we needed yet another reason live a healthier lifestyle, diet and exercise are key components to reducing the chance of developing arthritis or in the treatment of the inflammation and pain caused by it. Physical activity to keep your weight at a healthy point and the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods can help control inflammation and pain in persons with arthritis. Foods that fall into this category include:

Fish: Cold-water fish like salmon and tuna are known to reduce two inflammatory proteins in the body.

Fiber: Foods full of fiber can reduce inflammation by lowering the C-reactive protein. A good way to get more fiber is by eating beans, which contain an impressive amount of antioxidant properties as well as lots of needed minerals.

Fruits and Veggies: The more colorful, the better! Kale, spinach, blackberries, strawberries, broccoli and cherries are chock full of antioxidants that support the immune system. Even onions are known for their antioxidant properties.

Things to avoid include processed foods – pre-packaged cookies, chips and snacks, while tasting delicious, are high in unhealthy fats that are linked to inflammation. Also, watch your sodium intake (many pre-packed meals are loaded with sodium) in order to keep your blood pressure in a happy place.

Activities and therapy care plans at Heritage Health locations throughout Illinois can provide relief and therapy exercises to residents suffering from arthritis pain. Ask the management team about planned activities meant to keep residents active and moving, as well as the RESTORE Therapy team about a therapy regimen specific to treating arthritis. Learn more by visiting a Heritage Health location near you.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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