Posts for: May, 2016
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this hilarious video of dogs walking in shoes for the first time... Enjoy!
Continuing on with our theme of arthritis, let’s take a look at Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Unlike other types of arthritis that can develop from overuse or injury, Rheumatoid Arthritis comes from within. Classified as an autoimmune disorder, RA occurs when the body attacks its own tissues, specifically the lining of the joints. One of the reasons rheumatoid arthritis and foot care go together is that the early signs of RA occur in the smaller joints, like where your toes attach to your feet.
The spaces in between your joints have a membrane called the Synovium. This is a specialized tissue that lines our joints and maintains the synovial fluid, which reduces friction between joints and absorbs shock from our movement. For reasons unknown to science (although they have a few clues), some people’s bodies decide to treat this tissue like a foreign invader and will attack.
When attacked, the body reacts with swelling, redness, and stiffness. During these attacks, or flares, the synovium thickens, causing damage to the surrounding cartilage and bone. Flares can last for days or months and the longer and more often your RA symptoms remain, the more likely you are to have permanent damage. Constant thickening of the synovium can stretch and weaken the connections between tendons and ligaments and lead to permanent physical deformity. While the disease generally starts in the fingers and toes, it can easily spread to the wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, and further.
Science only has a few clues as to why some people develop RA while others don’t. Age (first occurs in people between 40 and 60 years old), sex (women account for 70% of RA patients), obesity (especially when diagnosed at a younger age), and family history (certain genetic markers are thought to contribute to RA) are all contributing factors to your risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
Unfortunately, the effects of RA can be felt way beyond your joints. RA can also lead to complications with your skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, nerve tissues, bone marrow, or even blood vessels. We will explore a few of these things next week when we look deeper into autoimmune disorders.
Diagnosis is not an exact science either. The early stages of RA can be hard to catch since they mimic other arthritis conditions. A family history may be taken, blood tests may be performed to look for indicating markers, and x-rays may be taken to track the progression. There are many choices for treatment options, but the disease is not curable and medications simply reduce or stop symptoms.
For the early stages, over the counter pain medications may be all that are needed to reduce swelling and pain. Steroid shots can be prescribed to relieve acute symptoms, but are not a long term solution. The two most popular options are Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and Biologic agents. DMARDs can slow the actual progression of RA, but come with some nasty side effects to the liver and lungs. Biologics is a newer class of drugs that target the body’s trigger system for RA flares. However, you do put yourself at a higher risk for infection.
Needless to say, rheumatoid arthritis can be a very painful and lifelong disease, but it doesn’t have to stop you from living a full life. Early diagnosis and early treatment can help you battle RA and maintain and active and healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing joint pain. You hold your own future in your hands (or feet, in this case).
This month we are looking at the exciting world of arthritis. Last week we discussed gout, a type of arthritis brought on by the buildup of uric acid in the body. This week, let’s take a look at Osteoarthritis. Sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cushioning between our joints wears down bringing all sorts of problems with it.
All of us use the joints in our bodies every single day. Just look how many there are in your hand and arm alone. Now, think about how much your feet (in particular) twist, bend, flex, and move in a single day or even a single hour. That’s a lot of movement! Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people across the globe. And sometimes there is very little we can do to prevent it. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
- Old age – The longer you’ve been using your joints, the more likely they are to be worn down and cause symptoms.
- Sex – Women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis (and we’re not exactly sure why).
- Weight – Carrying a lot of extra weight puts extra stress on our joints and can lead to a faster breakdown of the protective tissue in our joints.
- Your job – If your job puts constant strain on a single joint or set of joints (such as a job that involves lots of standing and walking) this could contribute to the breakdown of joint tissue.
- Genetics and bone deformities – Unfortunately, some people are born with a malformed joint or even just a genetic predisposition to develop osteoarthritis.
- Injuries – Any injury to a joint, even if it seems fully healed, can contribute to osteoarthritis later in life.
The signs of osteoarthritis start simply, but the disease is progressive and will worsen over time. Symptoms include pain (imagine that), stiffness or tenderness, loss of flexibility, possible bone spurs, and some people experience the feeling of their bones grinding together when they move.
X-rays and MRIs are the best way to diagnose osteoarthritis. A family history and physical examination are also generally conducted. Blood or joint fluid tests may be required to differentiate between osteoarthritis and other types of arthritis. If your pain is being caused by osteoarthritis, there is a myriad of treatment options to choose from.
Many patients can be treated with over the counter pain relieving medications. They may also benefit from gentle exercises, such as yoga, or physical therapy. If the pain cannot be managed with OTC meds, your doctor may suggest cortisone injections. This is a limited treatment option, since the maximum recommended treatment is less than four injections a year. In worst-case scenarios, joint replacement surgery may be necessary.
If you experience pain, stiffness, or a grinding sensation in your joints, and especially if you have a family history of arthritis, please make an appointment with your doctor to be checked for osteoarthritis. Catching this progressive disease early is important in order to slow the degeneration of your joint tissues. As I have said many times before, pain is not normal, if you are experiencing it on a regular basis, go see your doctor. Your joints will thank you!
…Could be gout. Gout is a very painful type of arthritis that results from the build up of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is produced when our bodies break down purines (found in our body tissues and many rich foods). Normally, uric acid is filtered through our kidneys and leaves the body peacefully, but when uric acid builds up, it can attack and lead to very painful results. Three different things can occur with the buildup of uric acid: the acid can crystallize leaving deposits in the joints, deposits of uric acid can form lumps under your skin, or you may develop kidney stones. While those last two don’t sound pleasant either, it’s the first result that causes the painful condition of gout.
A sudden attack of gout has been known to wake people up from their sleep. The uric acid crystallizes and builds up between the joints of the big toe causing pain, redness, swelling, heat, and stiffness. These symptoms can also occur in the ankle, heel, or even wrists and fingers.
Gout is known as the disease of kings and for a very good reason. A person may be more likely to develop gout if they are a man, are overweight, drink too much alcohol, eat many foods rich in purines, or have family members with the disease. The most purines are found in liver, seafood, alcohol, duck, bacon, venison and other rich foods, or in other words, exactly what a king would eat. Most famously, both Henry VIII of England and Leonardo da Vinci were sufferers of gout.
It’s too bad that they couldn’t visit the FAAWC, because our podiatrists can help diagnose and treat your gout. Diagnosis is fairly straightforward and will usually involve a family history with a physical examination. Fluid may be drawn from the joint to look for crystals. Treatment involves oral medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, or medicines to lower the amount of uric acid in the blood. As long as you stick with your medication regimen and stay away from foods high in purines, you can rest easy knowing your gout is unlikely to reappear.
If you think you may be suffering from gout, call the FAAWC today to book an appointment. Relief from your pain is only a step away.