Arthritis is one condition that can be incredibly debilitating to a sufferer of this disease. Arthritis can cause pain, inflammation, stiffness, limitation of movement, and can keep you from fully enjoying your life.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. In fact, more than 75 percent of people older than fifty-five show the joint deformations of OA on X-rays. But most of these people have no symptoms. For people who do have the joint pain and stiffness of OA, it can become a crippling disease. Some people suffer from OA in just one joint, while others have it in several joints. It affects more women than men, and most OA patients are over 45.
OA is most common in the small joints of the hands, the spine, the knees, the hips, and certain toe joints. OA primarily affects the articular cartilage, the slippery, cushioned surface that covers the ends of the bones in most joints and lets the bones slide without rubbing. Articular cartilage also functions as a shock absorber.
In OA, the articular cartilage becomes damaged or worn away. As this happens, the joint no longer fits together well or moves smoothly. In the early stages of OA, the cartilage becomes thicker as your body tries to repair the damage. The repaired areas are more brittle than the original cartilage, and these brittle areas begin to wear away and become thin. They may even wear away entirely. This eventually leads to a condition called eburnation, in which the bones become thick and polished as they rub together. X-rays can show these changes in the cartilage and bones.
But OA is not just a disease of the cartilage. The damage to the cartilage seems to start a sort of chain reaction that involves all the parts of the joint. Bone spurs, or outgrowths, often begin to form around the edges of the joint. The joint capsule (the watertight sack around the joint) can become thickened and lose its stretch. The synovial membrane that lines the inside of the joint capsule may become inflamed (swollen, red, hot, and painful), and crystals may form in the synovial fluid. The tendons and ligaments around the joint can also become inflamed.
Even the muscles around the joint can lose their strength. This usually occurs because of under-use of the muscles due to pain in the joint. When something hurts we subconsciously change the way we use the joint to avoid the pain. This causes the muscles to become weakened. Cartilage itself does not have nerves to feel pain, therefore the pain of OA probably comes from these other changes in and around the joint.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic, or long-term, inflammatory form of arthritis. RA is considered an autoimmune disease, in which your immune system attacks the tissues of your own body. In RA, the immune system mostly attacks tissues in the joints, but it can also affect other organs of your body. In some people, RA seems to run its course and does not gradually get worse. In others, RA gets progressively worse and leads to the destruction of joints. RA can greatly affect your ability to move and do normal tasks. RA can appear at any age, but most patients are between the ages of 30 and 50. About two million Americans have RA, and most of them are women. RA can affect children and when it does, it is termed Juvenile RA.
What can be done for the problem?
There is no cure for OA. It is a chronic but very treatable disease. Our goals of treatment at Complete Rehabilitation Services are to relieve your pain and to improve or maintain the movement of your joints.
Although there is no cure for RA, Occupational Therapy can greatly assist with both the flare-ups as well as the potential long-term joint problems that can occur as a result of the disease. The main goals of our treatment at Complete Rehabilitation Services for RA are to relieve symptoms, preserve the function of your joints, prevent structural damage or deformity, and to assist you with maintaining a normal lifestyle.
Talk to your doctor today if you are suffering from arthritis and are interested in occupational therapy or contact our office in Roswell!