Living With Arthritis
By Dr. Drew Layne
If you have arthritis, you’re not alone. An estimated 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease, and more than 20 million report limited activities because of it.
Arthritis is not one disease, but several conditions caused by inflammation of the tissue lining the joints. Over time, the cushioning material between two bones may deteriorate, causing bones to rub together. That can result in severe damage to the joint.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and can be caused by an injury to the joint. However, it usually occurs on its own as we grow older. It often is found in the fingers, knees and hips.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of arthritis that occurs when the immune system doesn’t work properly. It most often affects the joints and bones in the hands and feet, but it also can affect internal organs.
If you think you have arthritis, the first step is to see a doctor to make sure that what you have is arthritis and not something else. A doctor will examine you and take X-rays of your joints and bones. He or she may also do a blood test to decide what kind of arthritis you have.
If you have arthritis, there are a few things you can do to make life easier. Mild arthritis can often be controlled with medicines that help reduce swelling, stiffness and pain. Your doctor may suggest warm showers, stretching, the application of ice and rest. But exercise is important, too. Walking, swimming and cycling are enjoyed by many people who understand that inactivity can make arthritis worse.
In some cases, arthritis is so severe that pain is constant and joints are difficult or impossible to move. In those cases, physicians may recommend a joint replacement. Today’s advanced surgical techniques and materials make it possible for those who have replaced a hip, knee or another joint to live a perfectly normal life afterward – free of pain.
And that’s the bottom line. Whatever your situation, know arthritis is not a reason to despair. Millions of people are living with arthritis – and living life fully.