- UCF Health
“Imagine not being able to grip things. Everything you pick up runs the risk of being dropped. Jars can’t be opened, children can’t be held, and your shoes are slip-on or remain untied. This is often life with a rheumatic disease,” said UCF Health Rheumatologist Shazia Beg, M.D., during a recent community event at the College of Medicine physician practice.
Along with fellow rheumatologist and co-presenter, Neha Bhanusali, M.D., the physicians discussed common types of arthritis and disease management strategies—especially relevant since arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the United States today. In fact, 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some form of the rheumatic condition.
“Arthritis is a colloquial term commonly used to describe joint aches and pains. However, not all joint pain is arthritis,” said Dr. Beg. There are about 100 types of arthritis, which are generally classified as follows:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Spondyloarthritis associated with inflammatory bowel diseases
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Osteoarthritis (OA)
- Hypermobility syndromes
- Endocrine disorders
- Malignancy associated
Osteoarthritis, also known as “degenerative arthritis,” is the most common type, said Dr. Beg.
“It’s like rust on a hinge or mileage on a car. It’s just normal wear and tear on our bodies that results from age, use (or overuse) and often genetics,” she said. Osteoarthritis is often found in the spine, knee, hip, hand and foot. Another common site of pain is at the base of the thumb in the CMC (carpometacarpal) joint. The disease also is characterized by nodes or boney outgrowths around the joints where the body has tried to repair itself.
Dr. Bhanusali said, “Rheumatoid arthritis is more of a systemic disease. It’s most common in females and often found among smokers. In fact, one out of five people who have RA could have prevented it by not smoking.”
RA is a “small joint” disease that also can affect other areas of the body like the arteries, eyes and voice box, she said. Symptoms often include pain and stiffness of the smaller joints, as well as a low-grade fever. It’s important to diagnose RA early since the body is in a state of infection.
Drug therapies for RA are generally very effective and can even put the disease in remission, said Dr. Bhanusali. However, they tend to be expensive and can even suppress the immune system, so it’s important to do the research and talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.
While there is no cure for arthritis, there are pain management strategies and ways to improve mobility and range of motion. It’s also important to control inflammation to prevent future joint damage.
A few arthritis management strategies include:
- Weight loss – Losing even modest amounts of weight (approximately 11 pounds) can greatly reduce your pain, especially in the hips and knees. Weight loss also helps slow the disease’s progression.
- Exercise – Exercising four to five times a week for 30-minute intervals is ideal. Choose low-impact activities and stretch often. In fact, exercises in the water are ideal because it prevents additional stress on the joints. The key is to keep moving, but know your limits.
- Therapy – Supervised physical therapy can be extremely beneficial. Also, many people benefit from occupational therapy that incorporates adaptive equipment like walkers and railings in bathrooms that increase safety and independence.
- Alternative therapies – Acupuncture, heat/cold packs, massage therapy and TENS units all have been proven effective for relieving pain. Talk to your physician about what’s right for you.
- Mechanical Interventions – Many arthritis patients find it helpful to use devices such as braces, heel wedges, canes and walkers to help elevate the pain. Physicians and therapists can help determine what is most effective for your condition.
Both physicians stressed the importance of knowing about your disease. If you understand what’s going on, you can take a more active role in managing the condition. Beyond discussions with your healthcare team, additional information and resources can be found through the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org.
Contact UCF Health at 407-266-3627 (DOCS) or https://ucfhealth.com/