If you’re experiencing pain and inflammation in one or more of your joints, you could have arthritis. You’re not alone—more than one in five U.S. adults has been diagnosed with the condition, which typically worsens with age. Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed or you’re planning to meet with your doctor to discuss the possibility, here’s what you should know about arthritis.

What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

Discomfort and swelling in the joints are common in arthritis. You may also experience stiffness, redness, and a decreased range of motion. Most types of arthritis are chronic, meaning that there is no cure, but treatments can help control symptoms and slow progression.

What Causes Arthritis?

There are two main types of arthritis, and each is caused by different factors.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by physical use — or wear and tear of the joint — that happens over time. For this reason, OA is most common in patients over the age of 50. In some instances, it may also develop after an injury.

Inflammatory arthritis, including psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is an autoimmune disease. In these conditions, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. In the case of RA, for instance, the disease attacks the synovial membrane that encloses the joints, leading to swelling and inflammation. In certain types of inflammatory arthritis, other organs and systems can be affected.

According to the Mayo Clinic, factors that could increase your risk for developing arthritis include a family history of the condition, previous joint injuries, obesity, and advanced age. Gender can also play a role in your risk: Women are more likely to develop OA and RA, while Men are more likely to have gout — a type of arthritis that often targets a joint in the big toe. The CDC also notes that arthritis tends to occur in tandem with other chronic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.

How Is Arthritis Diagnosed & Treated?

Doctors use physical exams, discussions of your symptoms, and medical history as a starting point to diagnose arthritis. Because there are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, in order to make an accurate diagnosis, they’ll likely need more information.

In many cases, they’ll prescribe medical imaging. Not only does this help doctors understand your condition, but it also helps them identify the degree of the arthritis, which can guide their treatment decisions.

X-rays are quick and affordable and are therefore often the default method for determining if arthritis is present. To see more detail in the soft tissue, a doctor may order an ultrasound or MRI.

Once the type and degree of arthritis are determined, doctors can then develop a treatment plan for you. This may include home remedies such as over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy, diet changes, and/or other medications to control the immune response in inflammatory arthritis. 

If your doctor has prescribed imaging for suspected arthritis, turn to Outpatient Imaging Culpepper for a hassle-free, comfortable experience. Our technicians are committed to making you feel welcome from the moment you arrive. Learn more about our services on our website. To make an appointment, call (540) 321-3190.