Arthritis is the number one health condition affecting geriatric patients older than 65.
Arthritis occurs when there’s an inflammation of one or more of the joints. The condition affects more than half of senior patients and is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
Joint pain and stiffness are the tell-tale sign of arthritis, and they tend to get worse with age. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related diseases, but the most common forms include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Other musculoskeletal conditions
Christopher Stalberg, M.D. is an accomplished geriatric medicine specialist serving patients in the West Valley in Arizona. He and his multidisciplinary team are certified to treat arthritis and many other common conditions affecting this patient population, and they are committed to understanding how several different issues or conditions can affect one patients health and overall quality of life.
Diagnosis of Arthritis
The first thing patients can expect when being evaluated for arthritis is a physical examination of the joints. Dr. Stalberg will first check the joints for swelling, redness and warmth. He will also ask patients to perform a series or range of motion exercises to determine the extent and type of arthritis. If osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis are suspected, patients will undergo a series of laboratory tests of blood, urine or joint fluid can help pinpoint the exact cause of the arthritic pain.
Certain imaging tests are also helpful in determining an accurate diagnosis, including:
- Computerized tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Treatment Options for Arthritis
Dr. Stalberg promotes a number of different arthritis treatment options for arthritis. Physical therapy and and increased activity levels are essential components of any treatment plan for arthritis. This may seem counterintuitive for older patients, but it can be helpful in maintaining overall health and avoiding debilitating arthritis.
Beyond activity, medicines can be extremely helpful in helping to manage the discomfort associated with arthritis. The most appropriate medications will largely depend on the type of arthritis diagnosed. Commonly used arthritis medications include:
- This type of medication helps to lower the pain but doesn’t have a noticeable effect on inflammation.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs work to lower both pain levels and inflammation. There are over-the-counter NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, and certain others are only available by prescription. Some NSAID medications can come in the form of creams or gels that can be rubbed directly on the joint.
- Creams or ointments that contain menthol or capsaicin, which when rubbed over painful joints can help interfere with the pain signals coming from the joint.
- These drugs can be taken by mouth or injected directly to reduce joint pain. It lowers inflammation and suppresses the immune system.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). If your pain is due to rheumatoid arthritis, DMARDs can help to slow or totally stop your immune system from attacking your joints. Methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine are examples of these types of drugs.