Nearly half the people over age 65 have been diagnosed with arthritis. Most are experiencing osteoarthritis caused by a lifetime of wear and tear. A small percentage of people developed arthritis after an accident to one of their joints. And a third group – the smallest, but most severe – suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?
Most arthritis is an inflammation when the lubricating tissue in joints in worn away or otherwise disturbed. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the cells that cover joints and provide lubrication.
Swelling causes ligaments and tendons that support the joint to stretch, triggering the characteristic deformities of rheumatoid arthritis. The most noticeable effect is the fingers of the hand pointing to the side, rather than straight ahead.
Osteoarthritis is most likely to cause trouble in a person’s hip or knee joints. RA can affect joints throughout the body, but is most likely to start in the hands and wrist.
People may suffer from osteoarthritis in one knee or one side of your hip. RA general affects both sides of your body, starting in both hands. The most common sites are the joint closest to the fingertip, the middle joint of a finger or at the base of the thumb.
Because Rheumatoid Arthritis can cause deformities, diagnosis and early treatment can slow or prevent joint damage that leads to malformations.
Nonsurgical treatments for all forms of arthritis are the same:
If these treatments no longer offer relief from the pain and stiffness of RA in the hand or wrist, surgery may be recommended.
SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR
All types of arthritis cause stiffness, pain and, sometimes, weakness in the joints affected.
Many people wear copper jewelry based on advertising claims that the bracelets reduce the severity of arthritis. One study in England found no positive effect on pain, swelling or slowing the effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis. A researcher pointed out 2 reasons people may report benefits from the copper bracelet:
Clearly, more research needs to be done. If a copper bracelet makes you feel better, go ahead and wear it.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Society of Surgery for the Hand, Arthritis Foundation, Public Library of Science (PLoS ONE)