Q. I ache all over. Do I have arthritis?
A. It is important to determine where you hurt. If your joints ache, you may have arthritis. If you hurt elsewhere, you may have a muscle problem or perhaps fibromyalgia. If your primary complaint is weakness or fatigue, you probably have an entirely different condition.
Q. OK, my joints hurt specifically, so I may have arthritis. Isn't arthritis just caused by wear and tear?
A. Not necessarily. There are two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and results from either trauma or repetitive wear and tear on the joints over years.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an immunologic disease of the joints and does not result from wear and tear. For some reason, the body's immune system is overactive and attacks its own joints.
Q. How do you distinguish between OA and RA?
A. OA and RA usually affect different joints. OA commonly occurs in weight-bearing joints such as the low back, hips, knees and feet. RA involves multiple joints and almost always involves the small joints of both hands. RA is also associated with morning stiffness. If your joints are stiff for more than an hour after awakening and the stiffness improves during the day with activity, you may have RA.
Q. Why is it important to distinguish between OA and RA?
A. The treatments are different. OA is generally treated with conservative therapies such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. These same therapies are also used in rheumatoid arthritis. However, RA frequently requires other immune-modifying medications to slow the rapid, aggressive joint destruction that can occur in RA.
Q. Could I have something else besides OA or RA?
A. Of course. If you have other symptoms such as headaches, visual changes, chest pain, shortness of breath, fevers or a rash along with your joint aches, you may have another condition. See your doctor for a more complete evaluation.
Dr. David Kuo will be the speaker this week at Lakeview Hospital's weekly Community Health Seminar.
His presentation is titled, "Is it arthritis, or could it be something else?"
The free event will take place Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. in the Lakeview Hospital Community Classroom.
Call 299-2249 for details.