Most people think arthritis is an ailment that causes joint pain in older people. While that is accurate for some forms of the disease, the Arthritis Foundationcounts more than 100 types of arthritis, including some better known by names like fibromyalgia, lupus, gout, tendonitis, spinal stenosis and more.
In its various forms, arthritis affects more than 50 million Americans and is the country’s leading cause of disability. It can strike patients of any age or gender, although it is more common among women and the elderly.
In the early stages of arthritis, patients often mistake it for an injury or simply soreness from overexertion. Sometimes, the first signs can even be health problems that seem unrelated, such as a rash or fatigue. An early diagnosis is important to protect your joints from permanent damage of uncontrolled inflammation. An accurate diagnosis is also important to your overall health.
If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of arthritis, you should probably consult with a physician experienced in dealing with chronic pain and other arthritis issues.
Here are some important facts to know about the effects of arthritis.
Chronic vs. acute pain
It’s important to note, arthritis pain can come and go with varying levels of intensity. It can range from uncomfortable aching to nearly unbearable intense throbbing. Some people even feel worse with inclement weather. Acute pain, such as a knee injury, is a common injury that lasts for days or weeks until the injury is healed. Pain is considered chronic when it lasts for 3-6 months or longer. Inflammation and joint pain from an acute injury can contribute to arthritis pain, making it hard to determine if the pain is actually caused by arthritis or the injury.
When should you call a doctor? If the pain starts to interfere with everyday activities such as walking and housework and lasts more than 3-6 months you should consider seeing a pain management specialist.
Different types of arthritis can produce an array of symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis is particularly known for affecting victims differently and presenting unusual symptoms.
Some unusual symptoms associated with Rheumatoid arthritis
- Fatigue – Chronic fatigue is one of the most frustrating symptoms of RA. Many times it is caused by other factors such as medication, depression, and hypothyroidism.
- Vision problems – The most common eye-related symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is dryness. Dry eyes are prone to infection, and if untreated, severe dry eyes can cause damage to the cornea.
- Nausea and other flu-like symptoms – With RA, your immune system is attacking tissue in your joints, and so you may experience some of the general symptoms of inflammation throughout your body.
- Balance and mobility problems
- Leg and feet numbness
There are many other unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. A complete listing is available at rheumatoidarthritis.net. Early diagnosis is important because of potential damage to internal organs such as the lungs and heart.
Other arthritis complications
Some types of arthritis can cause internal damage to the heart and other organs. For example, many studies have linked rheumatoid arthritis to heart disease and to increased chances for heart attack. Another recent study published in the Arthritis Research and Therapy journal found patients with psoriatic arthritis are more likely to develop inflammation of the aorta, which can lead to more serious forms of heart disease.
It probably won’t surprise most people to know arthritis in its many forms is an inflammatory condition. What many don’t realize is that diseases like peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid problems, some cancers, dental diseases and a host of others are also related to inflammation. As research continues, the findings often are that when patients suffer from multiple inflammatory conditions, they can be connected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes chronic, low-grade inflammation has systemic effects on chronic ailments, and in addition to being associated with conditions like those mentioned above, it can even play a role in ailments like depression and dementia.
As stated in a previous article, the first thing to do is to find the correct diagnosis of the problem. Because so many arthritis symptoms are inter-related, finding an accurate diagnosis can be a challenge. That’s why working with a pain management specialist who is highly trained to spot lurking symptoms could save you time, money and more importantly, your health. Here is a list of a few possible options to consider:
“People with arthritis who exercise regularly have less pain, more energy, improved sleep and better day-to-day function,” states information from the American College of Rheumatology.
Ironically, many patients with arthritis become inactive because of the pain caused by movement. This can lead to decreased pain tolerance, stiff joints, imbalance, weakened muscles and other issues common to many forms of arthritis.
What you eat can play a significant role in joint pain. Recent studies have linked sugar to inflammation, which is a major component of joint pain. Many of those foods are found in the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fish, colorful vegetables, and fruits, olive oil, beans, and fiber.
- Intra-articular or peri-articular cortisone injections
An injection of a corticosteroid either inside the joint space or into the surrounding joint tissue can rapidly reduce inflammation and pain. Sometimes an injection into the nerve of the joint can also help.
- Epidural injection
Injecting a corticosteroid into the epidural space overlying the spine can rapidly reduce inflammation and back or neck pain.
- Facet injection
An injection of a corticosteroid medication around the nerves that supply pain signals from the facet joints can rapidly reduce inflammation and pain in the back or neck area.
- Trigger point injection
Injections of an anesthetic mixed with a corticosteroid into the soft tissue surrounding a painful and swollen arthritic joint can reduce pain.
- BMAC stem cell injection therapy
Bone marrow blood is extracted from the patient in a painless procedure. The stem cell rich blood is then reinjected into the painful joint. Bone marrow aspirate concentrate, which supplies the important stem cell building blocks, can be combined with growth factors from amniotic allograft tissue for 1-2 punch to knock out arthritis pain naturally.
Because arthritis impacts patients in different ways, you should also consult with a physician to find out what type of exercise and therapy program will work best for you. A medical professional who specializes in pain management can also help you learn to manage arthritis symptoms so you can return to doing the things you love.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.