/ by UK HealthCare
May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, an occasion to shine extra light on a common disease that’s the No. 1 cause of disability among Americans.
More than 50 million adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed by a doctor with arthritis and almost 300,000 babies, young children and teenagers suffer from arthritis or a rheumatic condition, according to The Arthritis Foundation.
Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy is an orthopaedic surgeon with UK HealthCare specializing in treatment of conditions affecting the hand, wrist, elbow and upper limb.
Dr. O’Shaughnessy recently spoke with us about how she and her team at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine can help patients overcome their conditions and improve their quality of life.
At what age does arthritis tend to become a problem and what are some early warning signs?
Arthritis usually starts affecting adults in their 40 and 50s, with slow progression with age. However joint arthralgia, which is joint pain that hasn’t yet progressed to arthritis, begins in your 20s and 30s if cartilage thins. A dull ache or pain in a joint when using it could be an early warning sign. There may be small bone spurs or cysts that form as the body’s response to cartilage thinning.
Arthritis is simply when a joint begins to lose cartilage which is the cushion or shock absorber of a joint. The body reacts by creating more joint fluid to lubricate the ailing joint. It also begins forming more bone, commonly called bone spurs, which act to increase the surface area or the joint and by doing so offload the force from the thin cartilage.
What types of hobbies or professions tend to put people at-risk for developing arthritis?
We know that certain types of injury to a joint can lead to arthritis – such as fracture or infection. Additionally, certain ligament tears in the hand, wrist and elbow can lead to abnormal kinematic loads and wear patterns that can lead to arthritis.
Although we don’t have good data to prove any particular hobby or profession can predispose to arthritis, in my practice I see a disproportionate number of people who work intensively with their hands presenting with pain. For example, dentists/dental hygienists and stylists/cosmetologists often have an early presentation of thumb pathology. Others I see often are electricians, surgeons, manual laborers, weightlifters and certain musicians.
What are some common ways arthritis negatively impacts people's lives?
Arthritis can cause pain and discomfort. This can lead one to avoid activities that cause them pain. Arthritis can lead to symptoms that are so significant that one may stop working or engaging in hobbies or activities they enjoy.
Are there simple ways to eliminate mild forms of arthritis or reduce the risk of developing severe forms?
We don’t have any proven scientific data, but there are several things to try. Glucosamine and glucosamine chondroitin have been claimed to help aid in cartilage protection and reduce the rate of arthritis progression. Anti-inflammatory supplements or dietary additions such as turmeric, cranberry or olive oil might also be considered.
It's also possible that anti- inflammatory diets, including gluten-free diets, might help with inflammation and arthritis pain. To control symptoms, one should start with oral or topical anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac or acetaminophen.
What's the recommended course of action for people who suffer from severe arthritis and how can UK HealthCare help?
You should start by talking with your doctor or medical provider about your symptoms. Your pain may be related to soft tissue inflammation and not arthritis and your health care team may be able to make the diagnosis.
Baseline radiographs (or X-rays) are important to determine the extent of joint damage. We typically start with the things listed above (supplements, dietary changes, oral and/or topical anti-inflammatories).
In addition, joint braces are very helpful for pain in the arms and hands and are generally one of the first things to try. Activity modification may be needed. Sometimes steroid injections can help relieve symptoms. Ultimately, surgery may be the best option to get you back to being pain-free and active.
What's unique about the treatment people can receive at the Turfland Hand Center?
We are a comprehensive team made up of highly trained and specialized surgeons, advanced practice providers, nurses and therapists with expertise in hand and upper extremity surgery. Our team is made up of both plastic and orthopaedic surgeons who work closely together. We have specialty conferences to allow collaboration and discussion of challenging cases to ensure optimal patient care and surgical outcomes. Our surgeons are active in cutting-edge research and travel nationally and internationally to teach and collaborate with other surgeons.
Ultimately, we are here to help you get answers and solutions. Many of us have additional expertise in minimally invasive surgical options. We have the ability to offer image-guided treatments and modalities uniquely tailored to your anatomy and injury. Our new office location is conveniently located at the former Turfland Mall location, which allows patients easy access and free surface lot parking.
To schedule an appointment and/or speak with a specialist, call the UK HealthCare Hand Center at 859-323-4263 (HAND).