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Diagnosing & Managing Arthritis

Posted on October 22nd, 2021 in Elbow, Hand, & Wrist by Dr. Steven Kronlage

Arthritis represents a wide variety of joint inflammation diseases. Patients most often have chronic Arthritis in their wrists, hands, and fingers, experiencing flares of inflammation, soreness or stiffness affecting the joints. As we recently wrapped up Bone & Joint Action Week, this is an excellent opportunity to bring awareness to the most common categories of Arthritis, proactive methods for pain prevention and available treatment solutions. 

There are three major categories of Arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis, which translates to “inflamed joint,” is most commonly recognized as the “wear and tear” over time on the joints. As the joint's surface begins to degenerate, the bone begins to rub together, resulting in pain, stiffness, or swelling of the affected area. This type of Arthritis can range in severity and be passed down through genetics. This degeneration typically occurs at the base of the thumb or joints in the fingertips or the middle of the fingers.
  • Inflammatory Arthritis, which results from excessive inflammatory response inside a joint, as the name implies.  It often is the result of an overactive immune system (autoimmune Arthritis). Still, it can also be caused by certain diseases (such as Lyme disease) or the buildup of crystals in the joint (such as gout or pseudogout). The most common cause of inflammatory Arthritis is rheumatoid Arthritis. In this unique autoimmune disease, the system attacks its own tissues, often symmetrically, and is most commonly found in the wrists and fingers. In some circumstances, juvenile Arthritis may cause similar symptoms in children.
  • Post Traumatic Arthritis is associated with a traumatic physical injury. This common form of Arthritis can develop over a long period of time from the initial injury and can progress if not diagnosed. The severity of this form depends on the type of injury, how much time has passed and if proper therapy was provided during recovery. 

While there is no cure for Arthritis, current treatments and increased understanding of managing the disease can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life. Treatment depends on the type of Arthritis and falls into two primary categories: non-surgical and surgical options. 

Non-Surgical options for the treatment of Arthritis include:

  • Medications: Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Acetaminophen can also be effective in controlling pain. Prescription medication may also be an option. Your doctor will consider the type of Arthritis, its severity and your general physical health before prescribing a medication. Patients with stomach ulcers, asthma, kidney disease, or liver disease, for example, may not be able to take anti-inflammatory medications safely. 
  • Injections: Cortisone injections into the joint may temporarily help to relieve pain and swelling as well. However, it is essential to know that repeated, frequent injections into the same joint may cause damage and undesirable side effects.
  • Exercise & Therapy: Certain exercises and physical therapy may decrease stiffness and strengthen the weakened muscles around the joint. Therapeutic medical devices such as canes, crutches, walkers or splints may also help relieve the stress and strain on arthritic joints. It may also be helpful to learn methods of performing daily activities that are less painful.

Surgical treatment options could be recommended for long-term relief depending on the type and severity of the Arthritis and the patient’s physical condition. These include:

  • Total joint replacement, in the wrist or elbow, for example
  • Partial joint replacement
  • Removing the diseased or damaged joint lining or repairing the tendon or ligament
  • Fusing the ends of the bones in the joint together to limit the motion of the joint 

At The Hand Center, our focus is to properly diagnose and provide symptomatic care to manage chronic pain and help improve your quality of life. If you currently suffer from a chronic arthritis condition or have experienced the types of pain outlined above, you may benefit from a consult with one of our fellowship-trained physicians at The Hand Center. Dr. Steven KronlageDr. Alex Coleman and Dr. James Piorkowski provide non-surgical treatment options and surgical intervention. Schedule same-day and next-day appointments in our Gulf Breeze and Pensacola locations by calling our office at 850-807-4200 or completing our online Appointment Request form. 

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