Arthritis is a progressive disease that causes joint damage over time. Joints form where bones come together. A slick covering of cartilage protects the ends of the bones, preventing damage and enabling the joints to move freely. In arthritis, this cartilage covering becomes worn, increasing friction inside the joint, which becomes inflamed, painful, and stiff. There are two primary types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type, occurring usually as a result of age-related wear and tear inside the joints, but sometimes occurring after an injury to a joint or as a result of extreme joint stress or repetitive use of a joint. Athletes, older people, women, and people who are obese or overweight are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, as are people whose jobs entail a lot of joint use. Rheumatoid arthritis is less common, and it’s caused by an autoimmune disorder, so the immune system attacks the healthy tissue lining and protecting the joints.
Arthritis causes symptoms like joint pain and stiffness, and some people may notice swelling or redness around the joint. Some people who have moderate to severe arthritis may notice a grinding sensation when they move the joint. Over time, these symptoms can become much worse, and eventually, the joint can become deformed, resulting in permanent disability.
Diagnosis starts with a physical exam of your joint, including passive and active movements to pinpoint the cause of symptoms. Dr. McKenzie may order X-rays or other imaging studies to determine the extent of joint damage and to rule out other possible causes of joint symptoms, like gout or tendonitis.
In its early stages, arthritis may be treated with medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation inside the joint. Physical therapy may improve flexibility and increase strength in the muscles around the joint, helping to relieve some of the strain that contributes to wear and tear. As your symptoms progress, joint injections may be useful in relieving pain and inflammation, and some injections use solutions designed to supplement the joint’s natural lubricating fluids. Canes or braces also can be useful in redistributing weight. If you have severe arthritis, you might consider joint surgery to replace the damaged joint or to immobilize it. Dr. McKenzie will determine the best treatment options for you based on your symptoms and medical history, your lifestyle, and other factors.
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