Arthritis Treatment Begins with Primary Care

Physicians Educate Patients on Symptoms and Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

DAYTON, Ohio (October 31, 2011) – Joint pain as a result of arthritis is something many people experience, especially later in life. With the autumn season and cool, damp weather approaching, many arthritis sufferers may soon be cutting back on their exercise regimens and limiting trips outside in favor of indoor warmth. Premier HealthNet is reminding arthritis sufferers that, even when the weather is inclement, it’s important to remain active and maintain regular doctor visits to keep joints healthy and limit arthritis flare ups and symptoms.

According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoarthritis is defined as a deterioration of cartilage and overgrowth of bone, which is often times a result of overuse or wear and tear on bones and joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, however, is a chronic, autoimmune disease that results in the inflammation of a joint's connective tissues and leads to the destruction of cartilage, and is less common than osteoarthritis.

Studies of arthritis treatment have shown that exercise and physical activity can help joints remain loose and flexible. Also, maintaining a healthy weight helps minimize pressure on bones and joints.

“Regular visits to a primary care physician are one of the best things people can do to help manage arthritis—that’s where the diagnosis and treatment starts,” said Dr. Molly Middleton of Beavercreek Family Medicine. “I educate my patients on symptoms of arthritis, test for more severe conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and refer patients to a rheumatologist if necessary.”

While both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are forms of arthritis, the two diseases have vastly different implications. Pain and discomfort are symptoms of both conditions. Symptoms of osteoarthritis are usually felt only in the joints, while symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are usually symmetrical and can be felt throughout the entire body. Other symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis include joint inflammation, stiffness and fatigue.

“Often times, people mistake osteoarthritis for rheumatoid arthritis, and vice versa,” said Dr. Jon Ryan of North Dayton Rheumatology. “Even though they carry some similar symptoms, there are certain factors that help individuals and their physicians differentiate the two.”

Osteoarthritis generally affects both men and women over age 40, while rheumatoid arthritis can affect individuals as early as age 20 and, according to the Arthritis Foundation, women are approximately three times more likely to be affected by the disease.

“While osteoarthritis is degenerative and a result of the breakdown of joints, rheumatoid arthritis is largely a result of genetics,” said Dr. Middleton. “Unfortunately, neither osteoarthritis nor rheumatoid arthritis can be completely prevented, but there are steps people can take to manage and reduce the severity of symptoms.”

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, effective treatments have been developed and continue to improve. For osteoarthritis, individuals can take over-the-counter medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, to help ease swelling and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, should be treated with the help of a specialist. Even though the disease can’t be cured, various treatments can delay or prevent progression of rheumatoid arthritis and help an individual go into remission.

“Early diagnosis and treatment are key when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr. Ryan. “Once a patient is referred to me by a primary care physician, I’m able to focus specifically on that patient’s arthritis and provide the consistent treatment needed to manage their condition.”

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