Unmanaged arthritis is more than pain and stiffness in your joints – it’s a pain in your entire life, because you can’t do the things you enjoy. Let’s work together to reclaim your life.

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You Don't Have to Suffer from Arthritis

If you have pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints, you may be one of the nearly 50 million Americans suffering from some form of arthritis. At INTEGRIS Health, we are here to help you live a more active life and mobile life, free from the pain and potentially debilitating symptoms of arthritis. From expert diagnostics, cutting-edge medications and minimally invasive surgery, to award-winning rehabilitation programs and the latest joint replacement procedures, the arthritis specialists at INTEGRIS Health have the advanced training and expertise you need to get you back on your feet and doing the things you love most.

What Is Arthritis?

The term arthritis literally means "inflammation of a joint" and even though we tend to think about it as a single condition, it actually refers to one of the more than 100 different types of arthritic diseases. Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are often mistakenly associated with old age because osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis) occurs more often among elderly persons. However, arthritis and other rheumatic diseases affect you at any age and are more common in women than men.

Arthritis is usually chronic, which means that it rarely changes, or it progresses slowly and specific causes for most forms of arthritis are not yet known.

Amy Dedeke

Amy Dedeke, M.D., is a reheumatologist at INTEGRIS Family Care Central. She also sees patients at INTEGRIS Family Care Memorial West.

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Understanding Arthritis

The three most prevalent forms of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis: The most common type of arthritis. It is a chronic disease involving the joints, particularly the weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip, and spine. Osteoarthritis is characterized primarily by the destruction of cartilage and narrowing of the joint space. It can also include bone overgrowth, spur formation, and impaired function. It occurs in most people as they age, but also may occur in young people as a result of injury or overuse.
  • Fibromyalgia: A chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An inflammatory disease that involves the lining of the joint (synovium). The inflammation may affect all of the joints.
  • Other forms of arthritis, or related disorders, include the following:
    • Gout: A result of a defect in body chemistry (such as uric acid in the joint fluid), this painful condition most often attacks small joints, especially the big toe. It can usually be controlled with medication and changes in diet.
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus): A very serious, chronic, autoimmune disorder characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation of and damage to the joints, tendons, other connective tissues, and organs, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, and skin.
    • Scleroderma: A very serious disease of the body's connective tissue that causes thickening and hardening of the skin.
    • Ankylosing spondylitis: A disease that affects the spine, causing the bones of the spine to grow together.
    • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA): A form of arthritis in children ages 16 or younger that causes inflammation and stiffness of joints for more than six weeks. Unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis, which is chronic and lasts a lifetime, children often outgrow JRA. However, the disease can affect bone development in the growing child.

The following are the most common symptoms of arthritis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently and may include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Swelling in one or more joints
  • Continuing or recurring pain or tenderness in a joint
  • Difficulty using or moving a joint in a normal manner
  • Warmth and redness in a joint

Arthritis treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. You may need to try several different treatments, or combinations of treatments, before you determine what works best for you.

  • Medications
    The medications used to treat arthritis vary depending on the type of arthritis. Commonly used arthritis medications include:
    • Analgesics: These medications help reduce pain, but have no effect on inflammation.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs reduce both pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Some types of NSAIDs are available only by prescription. Oral NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation, and some may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Some NSAIDs are also available as creams or gels, which can be rubbed on joints.
    • Counterirritants: Some varieties of creams and ointments contain menthol or capsaicin, the ingredient that makes hot peppers spicy. Rubbing these preparations on the skin over your aching joint may interfere with the transmission of pain signals from the joint itself.
    • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): Often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, DMARDs slow or stop your immune system from attacking your joints. Examples include methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine.
    • Biologic response modifiers: Typically used in conjunction with DMARDs, biologic response modifiers are genetically engineered drugs that target various protein molecules that are involved in the immune response. Examples include etanercept (Enbrel) and infliximab (Remicade).
    • Corticosteroids: This class of drug, which includes prednisone and cortisone, reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or be injected directly into the painful joint.
  • Physical Therapy
    Physical therapy can be helpful for some types of arthritis. Exercises can improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding joints. In some cases, splints or braces may be warranted.
  • Surgery
    If conservative measures don't help, your doctor may suggest surgery, such as:
    • Joint repair: In some instances, joint surfaces can be smoothed or realigned to reduce pain and improve function. These types of procedures can often be performed arthroscopically — through small incisions over the joint.
    • Joint replacement: This procedure removes your damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial one. Joints most commonly replaced are hips and knees.
    • Joint fusion: This procedure is more often used for smaller joints, such as those in the wrist, ankle and fingers. It removes the ends of the two bones in the joint and then locks those ends together until they heal into one rigid unit.
  • Alternative Medicine
    Many people use alternative remedies for arthritis, but there is little reliable evidence to support the use of many of these products. The most promising alternative remedies for arthritis include acupuncture, glucosamine, yoga or tai chi, and massage therapy.

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