What is Arthritis?

What are the Warning Signs of Arthritis?

What is Rheumatology and How Can It Help?

What Kind of Medications are Used?

How Can I Find Out if My Rheumatologist is Board Certified?

Is Nutrition Important?

Does Exercise Help?

What are Signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

 

 

 

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.

 

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What are the Warning Signs of Arthritis?

  • Early Morning Stiffness
  • Joint Pain or Swelling
  • Limitation of Motion
  • Muscle Pain

 

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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 rheumatologist’s specialty.

 

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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 body’s 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 response.

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 is essential.

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.

 

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How Can I Find Out if My Rheumatologist is Board Certified?

Click here to find out if your Rheumatologist is Board Certified.

 

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Is Nutrition Important?

Nutritional modification 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 rheumatologist’s central role in establishing a treatment program based on an individual’s 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 individual’s nutritional status.

Certain nutritional 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 body’s 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.

 

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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 patient’s 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. Studies have 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 individual’s 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.

 

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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.

 

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© 2015, The Arthritis Institute of Long Island, NY