Dr. Figueroa Talks Arthritis
In honor of May being Arthritis Month, Dr. Jessica Figueroa wrote a little bit about this disease that affects so many people.
"Arthritis is a disease process where you start to lose the cartilage in your joints. Your joints are like an oreo cookie: the bones are the cookie part, the cartilage is the icing. When you have arthritis, you start to lose the cartilage in the joint. It can be a slow process, where you slowly go from a double stuffed oreo, to a regular oreo, and then eventually you loose the filling throughout the cookie.
There are different types of arthritis. The one you probably have heard the most about is osteoarthritis. It is the wear-and-tear arthritis. It is the arthritis that develops as you age. Some of it is determined by genetics – meaning you are more prone to it because your parents had it – but some of it is determined by use – meaning the years of using the joints have eventually worn them out. There are other types of arthritis that are due to your body reacting to and fighting parts of your own body that results in the breakdown of the cartilage. These types are called autoimmune arthritis. Some common types are rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis.
Regardless of the type of arthritis, the end result is the loss of cartilage and the joint space. Your body can respond to this with increased bone growth and can create “bone spurs,” which are osteophytes. Your body also responds with inflammation. As you lose the smooth “icing” in the joint, your bones do not glide as smoothly. There is more friction. All of these lead to pain. The pain can be present only with certain movements or be present all the time. People often describe it as a deep-seated, toothache-type pain.
Because of the inflammation, anti-inflammatory medications like Motrin, Aleve, Ibuprofen, etc help the pain early on in the disease. Other early treatments for arthritis include icing the joint (over a towel to prevent skin damage), activity modification, steroid injections (they decrease your body’s inflammation), or even bracing the joint to minimize the symptoms. When that does not work, other options can be removing the arthritic joint, replacing the joint, or fusing the joint (i.e. making the two bones become one). These treatments help by taking away the painful movement at the joint.
Talk to your doctor today if you are concerned you have arthritis to discuss what is the best treatment for you."