Arthritis is a disorder involving gradual loss of cartilage within the joints, which can result in the inflammation of joints, swelling and potentially a loss of function. Arthritic damage can occur in one or more joints at the same time.
It has many different forms, the most common being osteoarthritis. This occurs as a result of either trauma to, or inflammation of, the joints. Other forms are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, septic arthritis, and many more.
What causes Extremity Arthritis?
To properly understand how arthritis forms, it is important to first know how a joint functions. A joint is where two bones move against each other, with a lining of cartilage in-between them to help act as a cushion. In addition to cartilage, there are muscles and ligaments in this area.
Ligaments act like elastic bonds that help to keep your bones in place as they move. Over time, and as these joints see normal levels of use, the cartilage within them degrades gradually. Eventually, it may degrade to the point where the bones of the joint are rubbing against one another directly, causing pain and inflammation of that joint. This can occur without any direct stimulation, as it is normal for the cartilage to wear out simply by aging.
Who is at risk for developing Extremity Arthritis?
Anyone can develop arthritic damage, but it is commonly found more in those who use the joint in a repetitive motion each day. It is commonly found in those over the age of 50, but is possible to develop in anyone.
What are the signs and symptoms of Extremity Arthritis?
The most common symptoms experienced by patients with extremity arthritis are pain localized to one joint, swelling and a loss of function within the damaged joint. As arthritic damage is a gradual progression of symptoms, the extent to which the symptoms are felt will vary from patient to patient.
Early stages of arthritis can manifest simply as soreness, tenderness, or swelling of the joint. Affected joints will also be warm to the touch and extra sensitive to pressure on the joint. Later stages of arthritis may come as a loss of function within the joint, as an overly swollen joint can prevent the bones from moving properly.
What treatments are available for Extremity Arthritis?
The treatment will depend on where the extremity arthritis is located, as well as the severity of the condition and the symptoms present.
Early stages of arthritis are treatable without surgical intervention, with patients commonly taking both pain-killers and anti-inflammatory medications to obtain relief. Warm or cold compresses (depending on which works better for the patient) can also help reduce the swelling present in a joint, and may be able to restore some function.
Topical pain medications may be very helpful, along with an assistive device such as a cane. Bracing may provide excellent pain relief.
There are several types of injections available for joint arthritis including:
Steroid Injections – the Gold Standard for arthritis
Hyaluronic Acid Injections (e.g. Synvisc) – FDA approved and studied extensively, these have been shown to provide satisfactory results in over 60% of patients for upwards of a year.
Regenerative Medicine Injections – PRP Therapy and Stem Cell Injections – these have been increasing in popularity tremendously due to excellent results in the knee, shoulder, hip and ankle in small studies.
Later stages of arthritis require a more direct treatment, often in the form of a corticosteroid injection to help combat inflammation of the joint. Extremity arthritis that has altered the endings of the bones within a joint may require surgical correction in order to flatten out the bones and allow for a smooth connection with one another. Some patients may have to have a full joint replacement, which is the surgical insertion of a material to mimic the effects of cartilage in order to allow the joint to once again function pain-free.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Extremity Arthritis and would like more information, contact Consultants in Pain Medicine today. The practice has a Double Board Certified pain management doctor accepting over 50 insurance plans at multiple locations.
Call (210) 202-4030 for more information and scheduling!