Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are among the most common types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Both conditions affect the joints, causing the cartilage in between the bones to break down. This occurrence can eventually lead to chronic pain, especially if the bones begin to rub together. Anyone can be diagnosed with osteoarthritis, but our physicians typically diagnose this condition in patients over the age of 65. The same is true for rheumatoid arthritis, but it may affect patients as young as 40 years old. More often than not, these conditions affect the knees, hips, hands, and more.
It is generally understood that osteoarthritis is a condition that develops with age because our joints experience natural “wear and tear” over time. However, previous injuries like a fall or any other trauma to the joint may cause this condition as well. Additionally, overuse of the joint could also lead to joint deterioration. Rheumatoid arthritis is not caused by wear and tear. Instead, the condition occurs when the body starts to attack the lining that surrounds the joints. Researchers do not know exactly why people develop this autoimmune disease, but it’s believed that genetics may make people more susceptible to environmental factors that could cause the condition.
Patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis may experience stiffness of the affected joint(s), especially in the morning. Patients may have limited mobility or a smaller range of motion in the joint. Patients may also feel a constant aching pain or pain the flares up throughout the day, especially when the joint becomes swollen. Patients may also experience difficulties completing everyday tasks, such as grabbing objects, walking, or writing. These indications may lead to additional symptoms over time; not from arthritis itself, but from the lifestyle it creates for patients. For example, if patients are unable to live an active lifestyle, patients may experience weight gain, weakness, and an increased risk of heart disease. Some symptoms are unique to rheumatoid arthritis alone, including fever, swelling of the joints, and fatigue.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, the pain management physicians at Desert Pain & Spine offer many solutions to slow down joint degeneration and manage chronic pain. We may be able to provide patients with anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the swelling of the joint in order to control the patient’s symptoms. Our team also offers joint injections that release a steroid medication into the damaged, painful joint. These injections are not a long-term solution, but they may offer far fewer side effects than oral medication. Additionally, these injections can be repeated if necessary. If necessary, we may help the patient control his or her weight or even recommend physical therapy or alternative therapies to help relieve pain. In some extreme cases, we may refer patients to an orthopedic surgeon to have the joint replaced if the degeneration is severe. This surgical procedure removes the damaged joint and replaces it with a prosthetic.