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May is National Arthritis Awareness Month – Here’s what you need to know

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May is Arthritis Awareness Month and there is new research and medications to help people who may be affected by it.

Doctors note there are several types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout which can cause pain in the joints. Understanding the difference between the various forms of arthritis is key as they may have very different treatments options.

“A lot of people don’t realize there is a difference with types of arthritis and for younger patients, they confuse it with something else,” said Tyler Williams, MD, a rheumatologist at Intermountain Healthcare. “We’ve seen several cases where people suffer from arthritis for years and don’t seek help because they didn’t realize it was treatable.”

Osteoarthrosis, often referred to as “wear and tear” of joints, is the most common form of arthritis. It affects more than 32.5 million Americans and occurs more frequently in older patients. The joints in the hands, hips, and knees are most often affected.

Osteoarthrosis can cause pain and discomfort making it hard to move around. Research has shown that weight loss can be one of the most effective treatments when weight-bearing joints are affected and that remaining active is an important part of managing osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a rare autoimmune disease that causes inflammatory arthritis. This type of arthritis only impacts about one percent of the population and most commonly occurs in middle-aged adults but can occur at any age. It is slightly more common in women.

The most common symptoms are morning stiffness lasting more than one hour and the presence of red, hot, swollen joints. A physical exam is a key to the diagnosis and your doctor may need lab tests to screen for the disease.

Gout is another form of arthritis caused by uric acid crystals. It can be extremely painful, and flares commonly affect the big toe of the foot but other joints such as the ankle and knee are also commonly involved. 

Risk factors include male gender, obesity, diabetes, and dietary consumption of things like alcohol and high-fructose drinks. It can also be associated with chronic medical conditions such as kidney disease.

An acute attack often lasts for a few days or even weeks, but it does slowly get better over time. If flare-ups are occurring frequently patients should be started on long-term urate-lowering therapy such as allopurinol.

For more information on arthritis, how to treat it, and to find a physician, click here.

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