FAQ’s on Extremity Arthritis of the Hip, Knee, or Shoulder

What is Extremity Arthritis of the Hip, Knee, or Shoulder?

For patients to understand what it means to have arthritis, they must first understand what arthritis is. Arthritis is an inflammation of a joint that occurs due to a lack of cartilage to protect the bones from moving against one another during periods of movement. This cartilage, which is a smooth material that forms between the bones of a joint to assist in their movement, can be worn away over time as the joint is used.

The general degradation of cartilage from activity of a joint can remove the protective layer that surrounds bones, and cause severe pain for patients. Arthritic inflammation occurring in the knees and hips can cause difficulty during walking or standing, and may force patients to reduce the time spent on their feet to avoid painful consequences. Arthritic damage in the shoulder can reduce functionality of the arm, and produce pain when the arm is used.

What are the causes of Extremity Arthritis?

The primary cause of arthritic inflammation in the extremities is the lack of protective cartilage that would otherwise protect the joint. This lack of cartilage can occur as the result of age-related degeneration, but may also be the result of direct damage to the joint. Certain actions the patient performs can accelerate the rate of cartilage loss over time, and include repetitive motion of the joint when performing a task or prolonged use of a joint without rest.

Arthritis of a joint is one of the most common causes of joint pain, and can occur in a patient at any age. It is much more common however for arthritic inflammation to cause pain in older patients, generally due to a longer period of time having occurred for cartilage to naturally be worn down. About one in three Americans currently possess some degree of pain related to arthritic complications in their joints.

What are the symptoms of Extremity Arthritis?

The symptoms associated with arthritic inflammation in an extremity will be based both on exactly where the inflammation is occurring and on the severity of arthritic damage present. Symptoms shared amongst all locations include general feelings of pain, swelling in the joint, tenderness of the joint to physical touch, and a feeling of warmth when touched.

Some patients may also see a visible discoloration in their skin in spaces over inflammation, with the skin reddening. Severe cases of arthritic inflammation may infringe on the functional capability of a joint, reducing a patients’ range of motion and producing symptomatic pain.

How is Extremity Arthritis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of extremity arthritis is most often achieved by a combination of the patients medical history, a list of the symptoms present, and an account of the events leading up to the presence of symptoms. Physical examination of the area can also yield significant diagnostic results, as arthritis has a number of readily identifiable indicators when it is present. During examination, patients may be given an X-ray to examine the event of arthritic damage in a given joint.

Patients may also receive an MRI or CT scan to examine for areas of inflammation. In very specific cases, patients may have blood work performed when the cause of inflammation is due to other conditions instead of cartilage degeneration (primarily gout).

What are the treatment options for Extremity Arthritis?

The treatments available to patients will be based on the location and severity of the extremity arthritis. Common methods of arthritic treatment include medication given for pain and inflammation, and an alteration of activities that may be contributing to cartilage loss. Some patients may need surgical correction in cases where the cause of arthritis is a deformity of bone.