Your physician will examine your joints at physical examination and look for signs of swelling, redness, or warmth. Your doctor will also assess your ability to move your joints. Your doctor may recommend the following tests depending on the type and severity of your arthritis.
Lab analysis of different body fluids can help determine the type of arthritis. Common fluids that are often analyzed for arthritis are urine, blood, and joint fluid. Your physician will clean and numb your area before obtaining a sample from your joint fluid.
Imaging tests can help you identify problems in your joints that could be causing your symptoms.
X-rays: X-rays use low radiation levels to visualize bone and reveal cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs. Although X-rays do not show early signs of arthritis but are significant and critical for monitoring the progression of the disease condition.
Computerized tomography (CT Scan): CT scanners can take X-rays at different angles and combine them to create cross-sectional views. CT scanners visualize both bone and surrounding soft tissue.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI Scan): MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce cross-sectional images more detailed of soft tissues, such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
Ultrasound. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to image cartilage, soft tissue, and fluid-containing structures close to the joints (bursae). Ultrasound can also be used to guide needle placement during injections or joint aspirations.
TREATMENT OF ARTHRITIS
Arthritis treatment is focused on relieving pain and improving joint function. Before you can find the right treatment, you may need to try multiple treatments or combinations of treatments.
Different types of arthritis require different medications. The following are some of the most commonly used arthritis medications:
These medications are painkillers. These medications reduce pain but do not cause inflammation. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an over-the-counter alternative.
Opioids may be prescribed for more severe pain, which includes tramadol, oxycodone, or hydrocodone. Opioids act on the central nervous system. Opioids can become addictive if they are taken for long periods, leading to mental or physical dependence.
NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can reduce pain and inflammation. Some over-the-counter NSAIDs are ibuprofen and naproxen. Certain NSAIDs can only be purchased with a prescription from your physician.
Oral NSAIDs may cause stomach irritation, which can increase your chance of having a stroke or heart attack. Some NSAIDs are available in the form of gels or creams to be applied topically on the joints.
Anti-irritants. Capsaicin is an ingredient responsible for the hotness of hot peppers. Some creams and ointments may contain it in some quantity. These preparations may cause pain signals to be transmitted from your joint by being rubbed on the skin.
DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drug) are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. DMARDs are often used to treat rheumatoid joint disease. They slow down or stop your immune system from attacking your joints. Examples of DMARDs include methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine.
Biologic response modifiers. Biologic response modifiers are drugs that have been genetically engineered to target different proteins involved in the immune system and are often used in combination with DMARDs.
There are many kinds of biological response modifiers. Commonly, tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (TNF) are prescribed. Etanercept (Enbrel Erelzi Eticovo) is one example. Infliximab is another.
Other medications target substances contributing to inflammation, such as interleukin-1, interleukin-6, and Janus kinase enzymes. Certain types of white cells, known as B and T cells, are also targeted.
Corticosteroids. Prednisone, Cortef, and Rayos examples of this class of drugs. They reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. Corticosteroids are available orally and can also be taken in the form of an injection to the painful joints.
For some forms of arthritis, physical therapy may be beneficial. The exercises can increase the range of motion and strengthen the muscles around joints. Braces or splints may be necessary in some cases.
If these conservative measures fail to work, the physicians might go the surgery route.
Joint repair: Joint surfaces can sometimes be smoothed or realigned to improve function and reduce pain. These procedures can often be done arthroscopically using small incisions around the joint.
Joint fusion: This is a more common procedure for smaller joints such as the ankle, wrist, and fingers. The procedure involves removing adjoining ends of two bones and locking those ends together until the joints heal into one unit.
Joint replacement: It involves removing a damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial one. Most joints that are replaced are the hips and knees.
HOME REMEDIES AND LIFESTYLE FOR ARTHRITIS
In many instances, following simple lifestyle measures can significantly reduce the symptoms of arthritis:
- Weight loss. Shedding off the extra weight will significantly reduce the stress on your weight-bearing joints. Losing weight can also help increase your mobility and limit future injuries to the joint.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can help keep your joints flexible. Water aerobics and swimming may be good choices because the buoyancy of the water reduces stress on the weight-bearing joints.
- Heat and cold. Ice packs and heating pads help relieve arthritis pain.
- Assistive devices. Using shoe inserts, canes, walkers, raised toilet seats, and other assistive devices can help protect your joints and improve your ability to perform daily tasks.