Have you ever wondered if that occasional pain you feel in your knee after a workout is arthritis? Do your hands ache after a long day of typing on a keyboard? If so, you may have wondered if you have arthritis. To help shed some light on this condition that affects one in five adults, we spent some time with Northwell rheumatologist, Diane M. Horowitz, MD, who answered some commonly asked questions about arthritis.
Is arthritis just one condition?
No, arthritis is actually a group of more than 100 diseases that all cause joint inflammation. Some of the most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout.
Is arthritis a disease that only affects older people?
Although some types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, are more common in older adults, some forms of the condition typically strike at a much younger age. Certain types of inflammatory arthritis are often first diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood.
Are women more likely to get arthritis than men?
Yes. Women are more likely to get many forms of arthritis. However, gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis, is more common in men.
What should I do if I am experiencing joint swelling or pain?
It’s wise to call your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms like painful joints, swelling or stiffness. Patients at Northwell Health are often referred to me or another rheumatologist by their primary care doctor for diagnosing and treating arthritis. You will likely require an assessment to evaluate the physical and mechanical causes of the inflammation. This may include lab and imaging tests. With so many types of arthritis, the cause may not always be easily determined. Symptoms can come and go over time, and in some cases, a patient can have more than one type. Even when a diagnosis isn’t perfectly clear, the goal is to treat the inflammation and prevent permanent joint changes, chronic pain and decreased function.
Can I prevent arthritis?
While you can’t prevent all types of arthritis from developing, you can reduce your chances of developing certain types, such as osteoarthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, avoiding injury and eating a well-balanced diet are all ways to support healthy joints.
What treatments are there for arthritis?
Treatment options depend on the type of arthritis a patient has. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed. Anti-rheumatic drugs can be effective in helping slow down the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, surgery is recommended. Physical therapy can also be beneficial in helping improve range of motion and decrease pain and stiffness.
Are there any new advancements in treating arthritis?
Biologic response modifiers, also called biologics, are the newest class of drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs are genetically-engineered to act like natural proteins in the immune system to combat joint damage. It’s important to note that biologics don’t cure arthritis, but they can slow its progression. They also often have fewer side effects than many of the older drugs. Sometimes, they’re given alone or in combination with other medications. There are also new biologic treatments that are currently being tested that will be available in the next five years or so that will bring even better treatment options for patients diagnosed with some types of arthritis.
Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about arthritis. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.