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Arthritis FAQs

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is an umbrella term for a number of conditions affecting a joint that lead to inflammation, pain, and stiffness. In arthritis, there is gradual loss of the smooth cartilage tissue that covers the ends of long bones and which normally facilitates the movements of the joint. As more cartilage is lost, the joint space collapses, the bone ends rub against each other, bony spurs and cysts form, and there is often deformity of the involved joint. Arthritis is a common cause of chronic pain and disability.

What are there different types of arthritis?

There are over 100 types of arthritis. The most common type is osteoarthritis (also known as wear and tear arthritis). Age and obesity are frequently associated osteoarthritis. Other common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder), post-traumatic arthritis (a type of arthritis resulting from an injury either directly or indirectly affecting the joint), and arthritis resulting from developmental disorders.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

The most common symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made on the basis of medical history, physical examination, and X-rays.

Is there a cure for arthritis?

There is currently no cure for arthritis. Most of the available treatments aim to either provide symptomatic relief or slow the progression of the disease. In case of rheumatoid arthritis, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs have been instrumental in reducing or inhibiting arthritis progression.

What are the non-surgical treatment options?

The first-line treatment of arthritis is non-surgical. Options include rest, activity modifications, weight loss (if applicable), over the counter non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Acetaminophen), prescription anti-inflammatories (e.g., Celecoxib, Meloxicam, Diclofenac), injections, low-impact aerobic and strengthening exercises, and functional braces. Among these interventions, low-impact aerobic and strengthening exercises, weight loss, and use of non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications have the highest recommendation by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

What are the surgical treatment options?

Joint replacement is the gold standard for advanced symptomatic arthritis. Other options include arthroscopy (limited role), osteotomy (limited role), cartilage restoration procedures (limited role), resurfacing (increasingly falling out of favor).

When is the right time for joint replacement?

The decision to proceed with joint replacement rests with the patient. Below are important criteria when considering joint replacement.

  • You have advanced arthritis.
  • Your joint pain is significantly limiting your quality of life.
  • You have tried and failed nonsurgical options.
  • You are medically optimized to undergo surgery.
  • You are able to work through the recovery process.