Osteoarthritis -- Frequently Asked Questions

  • Types of Arthritis
  • Injuries
  • Blood Testing
  • Exercise
  • Ulcer Medications
  • Surgery
  • Joint Stiffness
  • Heredity
  • Smoking
  • Symptoms
  • At Risk for Arthritis
  • New Drug Treatment

    Frequently Asked Questions About Arthritis

    Types of Arthritis
    Question If I have arthritis, does it matter if I know what type? Aren't all types of arthritis treated the same way?

    Answer There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and many have the same symptoms. However, some forms of arthritis affect only the joints while others affect many other parts of the body as well. These differences require different treatments, and some types of arthritis can be life-threatening without proper treatment.

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    Question I have broken my leg twice in the same place. Will I develop osteoarthritis in that leg?

    Answer You might. Injury is known to be a factor in the development of osteoarthritis. If you break a bone in or near a joint, your chances of developing osteoarthritis in that joint are increased.

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    Blood Testing
    Question I just had an examination because of my arthritis and was surprised that my doctor took blood tests. What good does that do?

    Answer Blood tests, as well as joint-fluid tests and X-rays, can help your doctor determine what type of arthritis you have. Knowing the type of arthritis helps your doctor develop the right treatment for you.

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    Question I have osteoarthritis, but I'm not overweight and I don't like to exercise. Why should I force myself to exercise?

    Answer You get more benefits than weight control from exercise—whether or not you have osteoarthritis. Exercise improves flexibility in your joints and strengthens the muscles around them, giving them more support and increasing their movement. Exercise also helps relieve stress and depression, which many people with osteoarthritis experience occasionally. Find activities you enjoy or can do with friends. Walking, swimming, slow dancing, and water exercises are especially beneficial for people with osteoarthritis.

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    Ulcer Medications and Arthritis
    Question I have an ulcer. What kind of medicine is safe for me to take?

    Answer First, make sure your doctor knows you have an ulcer. He or she will probably prescribe an aspirin-free pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, because it doesn't cause stomach irritation like aspirin does. When your pain is severe, your doctor may inject stronger drugs called corticosteroids directly into your painful joint to provide some relief. Sometimes a combination of heat, cold, weight loss, and stretching and strengthening exercises are enough to relieve pain and reduce or eliminate the need for pain medication.

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    Question If I have osteoarthritis, do I have to have surgery to correct it?

    Answer No. In fact, most people who have osteoarthritis never need to have surgery.

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    Joint Stiffness
    Question I don't have osteoarthritis yet, but I feel a little stiff in my joints sometimes. What can I do to keep this from turning into osteoarthritis?

    Answer There is little scientific evidence that osteoarthritis can be prevented, but we do know that people who keep their weight within the recommended range and exercise regularly are at a lower risk of developing the disease. Ask your doctor what your healthy weight is.

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    Heredity and Arthritis
    My mother and grandfather both had osteoarthritis. Does that mean I'll get it?

    Answer We don't know what causes osteoarthritis, but heredity seems to play a role. Some people with osteoarthritis have been found to have an abnormal gene that causes the early breakdown of the protective cartilage in joints that leads to osteoarthritis.

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    Smoking and Arthritis
    Question I know that smoking is a strong risk factor for osteoporosis. Does smoking also make me more likely to develop arthritis?

    Answer Yes, smoking is believed to be a risk factor for developing the inflammatory type of arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, smoking worsens the outcome of rheumatoid arthritis in people who have the disease.

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    Question I've been running for years with no problems, but lately I can hear crackling in my knees when I climb stairs. Does this mean I have osteoarthritis?

    Answer Not necessarily. But when signs like crackling, stiffness, pain, or swelling continue for more than 2 weeks, it's time to talk to your doctor. Only a doctor can diagnose arthritis.

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    At Risk for Arthritis
    Question Is arthritis more frequent in women or men?

    Answer Women are at greater risk than men of getting osteoarthritis in their knees or hands. Osteoarthritis in the hips is equally common in men and women.

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    New Drug Treatment
    Question I just heard about a new drug treatment for osteoarthritis that is available only outside Japan. How can I try it?

    Answer Ask your doctor if you might qualify to participate in a study on a new treatment for arthritis. Medical researchers worldwide are searching for new ways to diagnose, prevent, and treat all kinds of arthritis. But you need to avoid unproven treatments that can do more harm than good. Carefully evaluate any new research by finding out if the researchers are associated with a reputable university medical facility; if their research results are published in a respected medical journal; and if the study subjects were people like you with your type of arthritis.

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