Living with arthritis

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 2:51 p.m.
Well we are into the holiday season and cold weather has finally come to Gainesville, even if only intermittently. I can remember hearing the elders predict the cold and/or rainy days.
They did so by saying "old Arthur is acting up, it's going to be cold tomorrow." When I was very young I used to think, "Why does Mr. Arthur always bring such bad news?" It seemed his name was never associated with warm sunny days.
Today, I no longer wonder what the old folks were talking about because, would you believe it, I am one of the old folk and I live the answer to my question.
So who is this powerful "Mr. Arthur?" Yes you know him as arthritis. More often than not sufferers say they have arthritis, or rheumatism, not realizing that they are not one and the same.
Arthritis is one of the rheumatic diseases. The two diagnoses should be recognized as having differing features, treatments, complications, and effects on the body. Although similar in the fact that they both affect the joints, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, tendons, and that many of them may also affect internal body areas.
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are described by the Arthritis Foundation as the two most common types of a complex disorder that comprise more than 100 distinct conditions.
According to the Foundation, as medical knowledge grows through research and modern technology, the number of diseases described as arthritis will probably grow even more. In the United Sates one in three adults suffer with some type of this disease.
The cause of arthritis depends on its form. Some causes may be associated with injury, (old injuries that may not have healed properly at the time), may be the cause of osteoarthritis.
Abnormal metabolism may lead to such conditions as gout. Sometimes family history, infections and unknown causes may be the defining factors in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic Lupus erythematosus Think of arthritis as an inflammatory condition affecting one or more of the joints of the body. Given the fact that joints exist all over the body to allow us the flexibility of movement, those experiencing pain may have very different references to their condition.
The joint pain described by individuals with arthritis is known, in medical circles as arthralgia. In some form, this disorder may exist in women or men, adults or children.
This joint condition features inflammation of the area that is involved, and sufferers may describe certain body parts as being the source of their pain and limited movement.
Movement that is hampered may most often be experienced in hands, knees, hips, neck, ankles and back. Other symptoms that may occur are stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth.
Think about a joint as being the point at which two bones meet. The function of the joint is to move the body parts it connects. If the symptoms listed here are affecting the joints, movement will either be impossible or quite painful.
The diagnosis of arthritis is made by the doctor, who will review the history of your symptoms, and examine the affected joints for inflammation and deformity.
The doctor will ask questions about, or examine, other parts of your body for inflammation or signs of diseases that can affect other body areas. At this time, you may be asked to furnish blood and urine samples. Joint fluids and/or X-rays may also be a part of the data-collection phase of your treatment.
The diagnosis will finally be made based on the results of these tests and the examination. The diagnostic process may take several visits. It is also possible that your internist may decide to send you to a doctor who specializes in the treatment of inflammatory diseases. These doctors are called rheumatologists.
Everyone affected by arthritis may not become severally restricted by its presence. For some it just presents itself as a bothersome condition which requires us to modify our lifestyle in some way.
You've heard the old joke about the patient that says to the doctor, "Doc, every time I cross my knees I get this pain," to which the doctor replies, "My advice to you is not to cross your knees."
Certain arthritis pain lets us know what we can do and what we need to modify. Having given that brilliant example on how we must listen to our bodies, I hasten to say proper exercise will certainly help maintain mobility. It is important to have the understanding that as much function as possible should be maintained.
There are about a 350 million people worldwide who are experiencing arthritis. Nearly 40 million people in the United States are affected. This number includes more than a quarter of a million children, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Knowing more about rheumatic conditions, the cause and effect of proper treatment for streptococcal infections is very important for parents raising children. (I will discuss the effect of this bacteria on the body in a later column.) Such knowledge will help in the prevention of rheumatoid arthritis and in the prevention of rheumatic heart disease.
Having all of this information to read will, I hope, send you to your health care provider for a diagnosis or further evaluation of symptoms you may be experiencing. Proper and timely diagnosis can help prevent damage that may be irreversible.
Under your provider's guidance and treatment plan, which more than likely will include exercise, rest, medications, physical therapy and sometimes surgery, the best outcome possible can be realized by each person living with arthritis.
Vivian Filer is a retired professor of nursing, Santa Fe Community College.

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