More than 54 million Americans have arthritis, including about half of all older adults. People with arthritis generally feel pain or stiffness in their joints–knees, hips, shoulders, wrists, fingers and toes. While there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Gout is also a form of arthritis.
With arthritis, the tissue lining your joints becomes inflamed. You may experience redness, heat, swelling. Over time, the inflamed tissue may be damaged. Your eyes, heart and skin can also be affected by inflammation. In addition to pain, arthritis symptoms include fever, rashes, itching, weight loss and trouble breathing.
Only your doctor can diagnose whether you have arthritis. You should explain where you hurt. Your doctor may x-ray your joints and may also draw blood,
Older adults are most likely to have osteoarthritis, which tends to affect their hips, knees and fingers. Injury to a joint in youth can predispose to arthritis in later life. With rheumatoid arthritis, your joints, particularly hands and feet, become inflamed because your body’s immune defense system is not working as it should. Your internal organs can also be affected. Many people feel sick, have a fever, or feel tired.
People with gout have crystals build up in their joints, particularly their big toes.
Prescription drugs can sometimes help alleviate the pain and swelling. If your doctor gives you a prescription, be sure you understand when to take it, for example, before or after a meal and whether you should take the medicine with milk, to avoid a stomach upset. If your doctor prescribes cream, be sure to find out how often to use it as it can both ease the pain and cause a rash.
As with most chronic conditions, you can help manage your pain and other symptoms by staying fit, eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight. Your doctor might prescribe physical therapy. Otherwise, stretching, range of motion exercises, low-impact aerobics, swimming, tai chi and yoga can all be helpful. A daily walk, swim or bike ride could also help a lot. Always check with your doctor to make sure particular exercises are safe for your condition. Ice packs can also ease the pain, as can warm showers and rest for the sore joints.
Beware of unproven quick-fix arthritis remedies you see on TV or social media. They can be harmful. Disregard claims that you can be cured. Arthritis cannot be cured by magnets, copper bracelets, chemicals, special diets or radiation. At best, symptoms can be controlled. Talk to your doctor before treating yourself to be safe.
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