Over 52.5 million people suffer from arthritis in the United States. It is one of the leading causes of disability today. Arthritis can occur in anyone, at any age. There is no cure for Arthritis, but the innovative treatments available can provide sufferers with a healthy, pain-free lifestyle for many years.
What is Arthritis?
The term Arthritis refers to an inflammation of one or more joints. Cartilage is the connective tissue between the bones; it is responsible for absorbing stress and cushioning movements. When the cartilage is injured for any reason, inflammation, swelling, redness, heat, and pain can occur.
Technically, the term “arthritis” reflects the presence of an inflammatory reaction is present. If a joint has residual cartilage damage or pain even after the inflammation has passed, the more appropriate term is “arthrosis,” although many still refer to degenerative “arthritis” when there is no inflammatory reaction present.
Types of Arthritis:
Osteoarthritis (or Osteoarthrosis): Also referred to as degenerative arthritis, Osteoarthritis is commonly seen in people past middle age. The condition occurs as the cartilage between the joints becomes warn and frayed, eventually causing the bones to rub together. Osteoarthritis slowly progresses over time.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is the result of a patient’s own immune system attacking and destroying the cartilage. While the exact cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is not known, researchers believe a preexisting gene can be inherited and passed down through the generations. An illness, infection, or environmental factor will ‘trigger’ the gene, causing Rheumatoid Arthritis to develop.
Post-Traumatic Arthritis: At times, an injury can cause damage to the cartilage, eventually leading to Post-Traumatic Arthritis. The condition may develop years after the injury, even if properly treated. Areas that have experienced an injury are up to seven times more likely to develop Post-Traumatic Arthritis.
Who makes an ideal candidate for Arthritis treatment?
People suffering with painful, stiff, or swollen joints may benefit from arthritis treatment. There are various noninvasive management techniques available to everyone. For more invasive treatments, patients should be in overall good health, understand the condition, and have realistic expectations for the results. A careful evaluation by Dr. Whipple will help to determine a short-term and long-term care plan for arthritis treatment.
The Consultation Appointment:
Before beginning any arthritis treatment, a consultation appointment will be scheduled with Dr. Whipple. To evaluate for arthritis or arthrosis, he will perform a physical exam, take a detailed medical history, and order x-rays or lab work. The doctor will explain the arthritis diagnosis and elaborate on the options for treatment. If it is determined that medical management is right for an individual, a personalized treatment plan will be developed.
What can you do to manage arthritis at home?
There is no cure for arthritis, but it can be managed so the condition will not hamper daily activities. Always keep the following in mind:
- Learn all you can about the condition – A thorough understanding of arthritis and its treatment options will open avenues for appropriate care.
- Remain Active – Physical activity decreases pain and improves the function of the problem joints.
- Watch Your Weight – Losing weight can reduce the chance for getting arthritis; it can also slow the disease’s progression.
- Protect Your Joints – Arthritis is seen more often in people who play sports or have jobs with repetitive motion (such as bending at the knees).
- See your Physician – Under your surgeon’s care, the right arthritis treatment can be found for your unique situation.
Medical Treatments for Arthritis:
Treatment for arthritis will vary greatly on how disabling and painful the disease has become. Dr. Whipple will explore the noninvasive therapies before discussing surgery. These may include therapy or medications:
- Physical therapy – helpful to maintain or regain a full range of motion. Hydrotherapy (swimming pool) is particularly soothing, and easy on the joints.
- Topical Pain Relievers – medicated creams or lotions can ease mild symptoms, especially when only present in a few joints.
- Anti-inflammatory Pain Relievers – available both over the counter and by prescription, these reduce inflammation and pain.
- Pain Medications – prescription pain medications may be needed for moderate to severe arthritis symptoms.
- Steroids – can be taken in pill or liquid form, as well as injected directly in joints, for maximum inflammation reduction.
When arthritis symptoms are advanced, causing severe pain and disability or deformity, surgery may become an important treatment option. Invasive techniques carry an increased risk for complications, such as infection or scarring, and should be only performed by a knowledgeable, experienced orthopedic surgeon.
- Arthroscopic (microsurgical) techniques can be used to trim out the inflamed synovial lining and pieces of degenerated cartilage, allowing the joint to once again move smoothly.
- Joint replacement is reserved for the most severe cases of arthritis; it can restore some range of motion and dramatically reduce pain. Risks from joint replacement include infection and an allergic reaction to the metal replacement parts.
- Smaller joints of the hand or foot might be appropriately treated by fusing the affected joint to eliminate any painful motion. This, of course, represents a trade-off for chronic pain or instability.
Hillelson-Whipple Clinic Plastic Surgery and Orthopaedics accepts a variety of payment types. These include cash, all major credit cards, and healthcare financing through CareCredit. At the consultation appointment, Dr. Whipple will determine the exact cost of arthritis therapy. The patient coordinator will then review the payment options and assist to set up a payment plan.
About Our Practice:
Hillelson-Whipple Clinic Plastic Surgery and Orthopaedics was formed in 2000 by orthapaedic surgeon, Dr. Terry Whipple, and plastic surgeon, Dr. Ruth Hillelson. Located in the heart of Richmond, Virginia, Hillelson-Whipple Clinic is only a short drive from many major cities in the Washington DC, North Carolina, Delaware, and Maryland areas. For more information on arthritis, or any of our other orthopaedic procedures, give our office a call at 804.290.0060. Consultation appointments are always complementary.