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Your Health Guide To: Arthritis

Friday, May 14, 2021 8:34 AM

Mention “arthritis” and most people think of an older person suffering in pain from achy joints.

You may be surprised to hear that arthritis is actually not a single disease but a complex one that includes more than 100 types and that people of all ages can and do have this joint disease.

Another fact: It is the leading cause of disability in America as more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis.

As an orthopaedic surgeon within the NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, Ravi Bashyal, MD has played a critical role in helping patients reduce joint pain, return to activity and enjoy life.

“Arthritis is just a medical term to describe the cartilage and other cushioning within your joints wearing out as time goes by. There are a variety of processes or diseases that can lead to this happening, but at the end of the day, it’s like the tread on the tires wearing out as time goes by,” says Dr. Bashyal.

Ravi Bashyal

Why Did I Get Arthritis?
Sometimes doctors don’t know the cause of a certain type of arthritis, but there are factors that may make someone more susceptible:

  • Age: As we age we wear down our joints.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to get arthritis.
  • Genes: Certain autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis, are linked to genes.
  • Excess weight: Extra pounds put pressure on your joints and wear them down.
  • Injuries:  Joints can wear down due to a previous injury
  • Infection: A bacterium, virus, or fungus can enter the joint and trigger inflammation.

What Type of Arthritis Do I Have?
Here are two of the more common types of arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation:

Degenerative Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. When the cartilage – the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones – wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age, and previous injury (i.e., an anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL tear). 

Regular physical activity, hot and cold therapies, over-the-counter pain relievers, and assistive devices are commonly used to help manage mild to moderate osteoarthritis symptoms. If joint symptoms are severe, causing limited mobility and affecting the quality of life, joint replacement may be necessary. Osteoarthritis may be prevented by staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding injury and repetitive movements. 

Inflammatory Arthritis
A healthy immune system is protective. It generates internal inflammation to get rid of the infection and prevent disease. But with inflammatory types of arthritis, the immune system doesn’t work properly and mistakenly attacks the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion. Inflammation can also damage internal organs, eyes, and other parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and gout are examples of inflammatory arthritis. 

Researchers believe that a combination of genetics and environmental factors can trigger autoimmunity. Smoking is an example of an environmental risk factor that can trigger rheumatoid arthritis in people with certain genes.

With autoimmune and inflammatory types of arthritis, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is critical. Slowing disease activity can help minimize or even prevent permanent joint damage. Remission (little to no disease activity) is the goal and may be achieved by using one or more medications known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Other treatment goals include reducing pain, improving function, and preventing further joint damage.

When arthritis pain and stiffness begin to affect you and activities you enjoy, it’s time to seek treatment, said Dr. Bashyal. If the amount of pain and wear-and-tear is mild to moderate, you can try:

  • Physical therapy or yoga
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Gel injections

“At some point, as arthritis progresses, the joint may become worn out or “bone-on-bone”. When this happens, the simple treatment modalities are no longer effective and surgical intervention is required,” Dr. Bashyal said.

The good news is that joint replacement has evolved tremendously in the past decade. Minimally-invasive surgeries now lead to outpatient joint replacement surgery where you are discharged to your home the same day with minimal pain and can return to normal activities.

Get Involved!
Dr. Bashyal is the Medical Honoree for the 2021 Lake County Walk to Cure Arthritis by the Chicago chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.

The Arthritis Foundation’s Lake County virtual walk will take place May 15 and 16, while the Chicago virtual walk is set for May 22 and 23. NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute is sponsoring a team. If you want to join in the fun, click here.

If you are wondering what can be done for your arthritis pain, please call the Orthopaedic & Spine Institute at 855-929-0100 to schedule an appointment.