Arthritis:  A Joint Effort to Stay Active

Weather prediction is a science, but many people state that they know when it is going to rain—they can feel it in their joints.  Arthritis pain affects many Americans.  In fact, the Arthritis Foundation reports that it leads the way as the number one cause of disability in this country.  When this disease strikes the feet and ankles, the possibility of reduced mobility can be life-changing for active individuals.  However, there is hope in the battle.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Many people believe that arthritis is one disease.  However, it is actually a classification that includes 100 plus specific maladies.  These disorders do not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, or gender–you might be surprised to learn that the majority of people suffering with inflamed, stiff joints are under the age of sixty-five.

Osteoarthritis Explained

Osteoarthritis is the form of this illness that most people have encountered.  An injury can lead to the condition which is often called “wear and tear” arthritis.  However, most sufferers experience it as a result of growing older and natural degradation of cartilage.  If excess pressure due to extreme activity or obesity has been consistent, this breakdown may occur at an increased rate.  In the feet, the big toe is most often the source of arthritic discomfort.

Symptoms include weak muscles and joint pain that worsens, often at night.  Those affected may notice that their joints stiffen, especially with inactivity.  Over time a person’s gait and posture may change, which can lead to pain from the feet all the way up the spine.

Rheumatoid Arthritis—an Attack of the Immune System

Another common form of this disease actually attacks the body’s immune system. In particular, the lining of the joins (the synovium) is affected.  Fluid build-up in these areas leads to pain that can occur throughout the body since it is a systemic illness. Women are affected more often than men, but its cause is unknown.

For a person with RA, the effects on the body can come in waves or be constant.  Experiencing a flare can mean an increase of debilitating pain, while some patients have no symptoms for long periods of time.  Signs of RA differ depending on the person.  Stiff, painful, inflamed, warm joints are all likely, however, because the whole body is involved many people also experience extreme tiredness and fevers.  Over time, the affected joints may become deformed and lumps may appear.  Organ damage is another long-term risk.

Help and Hope

Early diagnosis and treatment of arthritis, no matter what form it takes, is crucial.  Symptoms should not be ignored, and expert podiatric care from Dr. Stavros Alexopoulos is key to successfully fighting this joint disease.  In fact, symptoms often occur in the feet first, so never ignore signs of trouble.

Treatment focuses on maintaining mobility and decreasing inflammation, but the exact course will vary from one person to another.  Education, prescription orthotics, diet, exercise, formal physical therapy, and medication may all be used in a patient’s care plan.

Many people live full, active lives despite an arthritis diagnosis.  While it may seem counterintuitive, staying physically fit is one the best ways to keep your joints mobile.  The pain of this family of diseases may seem isolating, but you’re not alone. Talk to Dr. Alexopoulos about an activity plan that will work for you, and move on in your fight against arthritis.  Make an appointment at our Chicago, IL office today by calling 773-561-8100, or schedule an appointment online.