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Understanding Arthritis

POSTED BY: Florida Hospital

If you’ve ever stepped out of bed to a sore, stiff back or aching knee, you’ve briefly experienced some of what those with arthritis feel every day. Though it’s often assumed to be a condition of the elderly, arthritis can actually affect people of all ages, races, and genders.

Arthritis is extremely common — in fact, it’s the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S. Since arthritis issues can range from common hand stiffness to severe rheumatoid pain, each case is unique and should be treated that way. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, and it can still be somewhat challenging to understand. But with a little upfront knowledge and expert guidance from our physicians, we can help make your everyday life with these conditions more manageable and comfortable.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term referring to inflammation of the joints — arthritis may cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and even the connective tissues. Each individual may experience arthritis symptoms differently, but in general, they include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling in the joint(s)
  • Joint stiffness
  • Chronic pain or tenderness in the joint(s)
  • Warmth and redness in the joint area
  • Limited movement in the affected joint(s)
  • Fatigue


What Causes It?

Sometimes, the cause of arthritis is simply unknown. But some or all of the following may contribute to its development:

  • Genetics and family history (i.e., inherited cartilage weakness)
  • Obesity
  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Neurogenic disturbances
  • Metabolic disturbances
  • Excessive wear and tear and stress on a joint(s)
  • Environmental triggers
  • The influence of certain hormones on the body


How is Arthritis Treated?

Even though there is no cure for arthritis, we can work to bring you relief through various nonsurgical and minimally invasive techniques. A multidisciplinary team works together to manage arthritis since many symptoms are chronic and change in severity over time. 

Ariel Cole, MD is the Program Director at Florida Hospital Medical Group’s Centre for Aging and Wellness. She explained that, “depending on the cause or type of arthritis, possible treatments include specific exercises, topical creams, oral pills, injections, and surgery. Rheumatologists and orthopedic surgeons as well as primary care physicians commonly treat arthritic conditions.”

Dr. Cole is reassuring when it comes to concerns about your arthritis worsening over time. “In some cases, symptoms can be stabilized or even reversed,” she says.

What if I Think I Have Arthritis?

There are several medical conditions that share symptoms of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, so it’s important to consult your physician if you’re experiencing pain and stiffness.

“See your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms and determine if you need to see a specialist,” said Dr. Cole. “A referral to a rheumatologist is typical when an autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis is suspected. A referral to an orthopedic surgeon is typical when surgery may help the symptoms; for example, when osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis caused by wear and tear on the joint, is severe and other treatments have not helped.”

Arthritis is diagnosed based on your history, type of symptoms, and physical exam. Your physician may also use X-rays, blood tests, and other types of imaging to accurately diagnose you.

If inflammation and stiffness are impacting your quality of life, let us help heal and control your pain as much as possible. To learn more or request an appointment, please call 407-599-6060.