William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Arthritis facts
- What is arthritis?
- How many types of arthritis exist?
- What causes arthritis?
- What are risk factors for arthritis?
- What are arthritis symptoms and signs?
- Who is affected by arthritis?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose arthritis? Why is a diagnosis important?
- Is there an arthritis diet?
- Are there foods to avoid when you have arthritis?
- What is the treatment for arthritis?
- What are the prognosis (outlook) for arthritis, and what are arthritis complications?
- Is it possible to prevent arthritis?
- What is a rheumatologist, and what specialties of doctors treat arthritis?
- What is the Arthritis Foundation?
- Find a local Rheumatologist in your town
What are arthritis symptoms and signs?
Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints. Joint inflammation from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, pain, and warmth. Tenderness of the inflamed joint can be present with or without pain. When large joints are involved, such as the knee, there can be loss of cartilage with limitation of motion from the joint damage. When arthritis affects the small joints in fingers, there can be bone growth and loss of hand grip and grip strength of the hand.
Many of the forms of arthritis, because they are rheumatic diseases, can cause symptoms affecting various organs of the body that do not directly involve the joints. Therefore, symptoms in some patients with certain forms of arthritis can also include fever, gland swelling (swollen lymph nodes), weight loss, fatigue, feeling unwell, and even symptoms from abnormalities of organs such as the lungs, heart, or kidneys.
How do health-care professionals diagnose arthritis? Why is a diagnosis important?
The first step in the diagnosis of arthritis is a meeting between the doctor and the patient. The doctor will review the history of symptoms, examine the joints for inflammation and deformity, as well as ask questions about or examine other parts of the body for inflammation or signs of diseases that can affect other body areas. Furthermore, certain blood, urine, joint fluid, and/or X-ray tests might be ordered. The diagnosis will be based on the pattern of symptoms, the distribution of the inflamed joints, and any blood and X-ray findings. Several visits may be necessary before the doctor can be certain of the diagnosis. A doctor with special training in arthritis and related diseases is called a rheumatologist (see below).
Many forms of arthritis are more of an annoyance than serious. However, millions of people suffer daily with pain and disability from arthritis or its complications.
Earlier and accurate diagnosis can help to prevent irreversible damage and disability. Properly guided programs of exercise and rest, medications, physical therapy, and surgery options can idealize long-term outcomes for those with arthritis. Exercise and exercise routines can be helpful in providing joint stability by strengthening the musculoskeletal system while improving balance. Physical therapists can provide the care needed for properly guided exercise regimens.
It should be noted that both before and especially after the diagnosis of arthritis, communication with the treating doctor is essential for optimal health. This is important from the standpoint of the doctor, so that he/she can be aware of the vagaries of the patient's symptoms as well as their tolerance of and acceptance of treatments. It is important from the standpoint of patients, so that they can be assured that they have an understanding of the diagnosis and how the condition does and might affect them. It is also crucial for the safe use of medications.
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