Frequent joint pains accompanied with swelling and stiffness are the early arthritis symptoms. Arthritis can affect one or multiple joints and can be painful to touch and cause difficulty in accomplishing simple everyday tasks like walking or climbing stairs.
It is important to notice the early onset of arthritis symptoms and seek medical opinion immediately. Arthritis can develop over a period of time or in some cases suddenly as well. So, earlier the arthritis symptoms are diagnosed, earlier the appropriate arthritis treatment can start.
Arthritis: Checkup or Diagnosis
The early arthritis symptoms can be confusing and often misjudged. It is always better to seek medical assistance. The doctor performs a proper physical examination to check for fluids around the joints, redness or swelling and loss of motion in the joints. After the initial examination of arthritis symptoms the doctor might refer to a specialist (rheumatologist) for the further arthritis treatment. Depending upon the type of arthritis suspected the doctor may suggest the following tests:
• Laboratory tests: Analyzing different body fluids like blood, urine and joint fluids can help in detection of the type of arthritis. After cleansing and numbing the area; a needle is inserted in the joint space to withdraw some fluid. Blood may be drawn to check for the levels of inflammation and the presence of antibodies.
• Imaging tests: These tests are conducted to detect problems within the joint that may be causing the symptoms of arthritis. The tests include:
1. X-ray: X-rays are the most commonly used means to visualize the joints using low levels of radiation. X-rays can reveal cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs.
2. Computerized tomography (CT): CT scans produce cross-sectional views of the internal structure of bones and cartilage by taking x-rays from many different angles. CT scan helps visualize both bones and surrounding soft tissues.
3. Magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI uses radio waves combined with strong magnetic field to produce more detailed cross-sectional images of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
4. Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to obtain soft tissues, cartilage and fluid-containing structures such as bursae.
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The focus of every arthritis treatment is to relieve the symptoms and help in better functioning of joints. The doctor may suggest different treatments or combinations of treatments, before determining the most suitable one as per the condition. Treatment options vary according to the type of arthritis. Some of the arthritis treatment methods are listed as follows:
• Physical therapy: A course of physical therapy is often recommended to help patients with arthritis to relieve long-term pain and improve the movement of the joints. The patient is asked to do particular exercises of the arthritic joint so that the health of the joint and overall body can be maintained. According to the individual needs, different forms of physical therapy such as warm water therapy, physical therapy or occupational therapy may be recommended.
• Medicine: Several types of medicines are available that are used for the arthritis treatment. To begin with, the doctor will prescribe certain medicines that have the fewest side effects and further prescribe some other medications if the previous ones are insufficiently effective. The medications may be different for different types of arthritis. Commonly used arthritis medicines are:
1. Analgesics: These medicines reduce pain but not inflammation.
2. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These reduce pain as well as inflammation.
3. Counterirritants: Some varieties of creams and ointments that contain menthol or capsaicin, if rubbed on the skin over your aching joint can reduce pain by interfering with the transmission of pain signals from the joint itself.
4. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): DMARDs are often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. These medicines slow or stop your immune system from attacking your joints.
5. Corticosteroids: These include prednisone and cortisone and help in reducing inflammation and suppress the immune system. These can be taken orally or can be injected directly into the painful joints.
Surgery: If medications and other treatments don’t help, the doctor may suggest surgery such as joint repair, joint replacement, and joint fusion.