Arthritis

Early Detection for Arthritis: The nation’s most common cause of disability likely to be detectable via a blood test soon

Dr. John D. Tomasin, MD, a Northern California Medical Associates (NCMA) Orthopedic Surgeon discusses living with arthritis, exploring the latest research on the care of arthritis and explains when total-joint-replacement is necessary.

arthritisResearch, led by the University of Warwick in the UK published recently in the journal Scientific Reports reveals that the first blood test for detection of early-stage osteoarthritis could soon be developed. Researchers who say that the biomarker they identified in the study makes it possible to detect the painful joint condition before bone and joint damage becomes obvious. Dr. John Tomasin, NCMA Orthopedic Surgeon, points out that this development will help to bring treatment for arthritis to patients when it could actually have the greatest impact; in the early stages of the disease.

Researchers suggest that this discovery raises the potential of a blood test that can help diagnose the most common forms of arthritis, RA and OA — as much as several years before the onset of physical symptoms. “With this sort of advanced warning orthopedic physicians would be able to manage and treat symptoms well before the disease reaches its more painful state and starts to become degenerative,” Tomasin says.

The sooner the diagnosis, the better — as most types of arthritis can be managed fairly well, and the pain and disability minimized when caught in the early stages. While it may be some time before advance detection is available by way of a blood test, treating arthritis as symptoms arise and knowing when to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist will help to give patients a better outlook on living with arthritis.

Common Forms of Arthritis

It may surprise some people to learn that arthritis is the nation’s most common cause of disability affecting an estimated 52.5 million adults in the U.S; that figure translates to about 1 of 5 adults currently living with some form of arthritis. According to the Center for Disease Control, as the U.S. population continues to age, the number of adults with arthritis is expected to increase to a whopping 67 million by 2030.

Arthritis is most commonly diagnosed in adults 65 years or older but people of all ages – including children, can be affected. It tends to affect women more than men (26 to 19 percent respectively) of all racial and ethnic groups. Arthritis is thought to be caused by inflammation of the tissue lining the joints. More than 100 different category of rheumatic diseases and conditions exist under the umbrella of an arthritis diagnosis; the most common being osteoarthritis which usually develops are part of the aging process, and most often affects the fingers, knees and hips. Other forms of arthritis that occur includes:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • lupus
  • gout, pseudo gout

Arthritis is also more commonly diagnosed among adults who have issues of obesity, and is less likely to appear in those who maintain a healthy weight. There is no known cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help slow down the condition and provide some relief. Symptoms universally include pain, aching, stiffness and swelling in or around the joints. Certain forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, have been known to affect organs and cause pervasive symptoms throughout the body.

How Is Arthritis Treated?

Arthritis treatments are aimed at providing pain relief by controlling inflammation and increasing joint mobility. “Early, aggressive treatment is particularly important for rheumatoid arthritis in order to help prevent further damage and disability down the road,” explains Dr. Tomasin. Common treatment options may include medication, an exercise regime specific to the condition, application of heat or cold compresses and use of joint protection. When these methods fail to provide relief surgery may be considered.

When it’s time for Total Join Replacement

Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure where aspects of an arthritic or damaged joint are removed and replaced with prosthesis. This type of prosthesis is constructed from plastic, ceramic or metal and is designed to perfectly replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons the vast majority of patients report a significant decrease in pain following total joint replacement surgery; up to 90 percent of all patients. “Most patients quickly return to normal daily activities and are usually able to continue to stay active for years to come,” says Dr. Tomasin. “In many cases, following total joint replacement surgery we see our patients resume activities they enjoyed prior to being diagnosed with arthritis.”

A variety of conditions can cause joint pain and disability that lead patients to consider joint replacement surgery including damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones called ‘articular cartilage’ usually due to arthritis, a fracture, trauma or some other condition.

It is reported that about 1 million total joint replacements were performed in the United States as if 2011. The most common type of joint replacement is hip and knee but replacement surgery can also be successfully performed on the ankle, wrist, elbow and shoulder.

About Dr. Tomasin

Dr. John Tomasin, NCMA Orthopedic SurgeonDr. John D. Tomasin attended medical school at the University of California, Davis-School of Medicine, and completed his residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Tomasin completed his Sports Medicine Fellowship at Hughston Sports Medicine Clinic in Columbus, GA, as well as an AO Fellowship in Munich, West Germany. Dr. Tomasin has been published in numerous professional medical journals, including Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Journal of Orthopedic Trauma, and The Physician and Sports Medicine.
Dr. Tomasin has been the team physician for numerous high school athletic programs, including Healdsburg High School and Cardinal Newman High School. He is also been the acting medical consultant for the Northern California Rugby Football Union, and the team physician for the Santa Rosa Rugby Club.

Dr. Tomasin is committed to the health of the Sonoma County community, and he has been in practice in Healdsburg since 1988. To learn more visit our website or call 707-4330-0126 for an appointment.

 


Resources:
First blood test for osteoarthritis could soon be available
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150320091317.htm

Arthritis: The Nation’s Most Common Cause of Disability
http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/arthritis.htm

Arthritis Basics
http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/arthritis-basics?page=3#1
Arthritis Foundation
http://www.arthritistoday.org/

Living With Arthritis: Health Information Basics for You and Your Family
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Arthritis/default.asp

Understanding How Cold Weather Can Worsen Arthritis Symptoms

Dr. Jack WaxmanWintertime weather can affect more than just your mood; it can have a significant impact on your health as well – particularly if you are among the 50 million adults suffering from arthritis in the US. Dr. Jack Waxman of NCMA’s FountainGrove Rheumatology can help you understand and manage the symptoms associated with arthritis including those worsened by cold weather.

Anyone who suffers from arthritis pain can tell you that their joints do stiffen up as the temperature drops. And researchers have demonstrated in clinical studies that fluctuations in temperature or barometric pressure can have a very real effect on joint pain in arthritis patients, though they are still working out the exact reason for this phenomenon. For patients with arthritis the cold, damp weather can not only increase stiffness and joint pain it can also lead to increased anxiety, depression and isolation. Knowing when to seek professional help is an important factor in maintaining long term joint health and overall wellness.

Arthritis Pain – where does it come from?

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The pain of arthritis can originate from a variety of sources. These may include;

  • inflammation of the synovial membrane (see below)
  • the tendons
  • or the ligaments
  • muscle strain
  • fatigue
  • cartilage degeneration

And, a combination of the above factors generally contributes to the sensation and intensity of the pain. Arthritis is a musculoskeletal disorder with many different causes. It is a disease that is not completely understood by experts, and according to the Arthritis Foundation, there currently are no cures. There are at least 100 different known musculoskeletal diseases or conditions that effectively destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues, all leading to restricted physical movement of some degree. Winter weather can escalate symptoms and take its toll on arthritis sufferers in a many different ways.

How it Starts

In a healthy body, a membrane called the Synovium surrounds the joints and provides important cushioning. This membrane works to produce a small amount of thick fluid called Synovial Fluid that nourishes the cartilage, keeping movement fluid. The Synovium has a strong outer layer called the Capsule, which keeps the bones from moving too much. Whereas, ligaments are thick, strong bands usually just outside the Capsule located on both sides help to keep bones firmly in place. And finally, tendons, also located on both sides, attach muscles to bones. Their job is to hold the joint in place and help to move it.

Symptoms of arthritis are known to manifest in many ways, and it can be difficult to diagnose. It can come on slowly with only mild symptoms, or symptoms may appear suddenly, causing intense pain that escalates within just a few hours. Arthritis symptoms can also appear only occasionally over a long period of time. It might cause joint pain, swelling and stiffness, but it can also cause seemingly unrelated health problems like fatigue or a rash. In fact, early signs of arthritis are often mistaken for an injury or the result of over activity.

Common Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage associated with risk factors such as weight (obesity), having a history of joint injury, and age. It affects nearly 27 million Americans, most over the age of 45.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membrane lining the joint causing pain, stiffness, a sensation of warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage. It can also cause inflammation all over the body, affecting vital organs such as the lungs. In the U.S., an estimated 1.5 million people have RA and for some reason, there are 2.5 times as many women as men with the disease.

Some facts about this debilitating disease:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million people in the U.S., is typically diagnosed between ages 30 and 80 and also occurs in younger people
  • The chances of a person their 20s developing RA is 1 in 714 for women and 1 in 2,778 for men
  • Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
  • By 2030 an estimated 67 million Americans will have arthritis
  • Two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65
  • Arthritis and rheumatic conditions cost the U.S. economy $128 billion every year

How Arthritis Affects People

Joint health is an important part of every person’s sense of wellness, potentially impacting productivity, quality of life and independence. Taking steps to protect joints from ongoing pain and permanent damage caused by uncontrolled inflammation is important to everyone, and early diagnosis and treatment can actually save more than just joints. In this regard is may be helpful to know that NCMA’s Rheumatology provides comprehensive diagnostics, treatment and management of a full spectrum of rheumatologic health conditions for patients in the Santa Rosa region.

It is important to understand that arthritis pain affects people differently. Factors that can add to the pain a person may experience include the amount of swelling within the joint, the extent of heat or redness present and the damage that has occurred within the joint. Some patients report pain in their joints first thing in the morning while others may develop pain only after prolonged use of the joint. Everyone has a different threshold and tolerance for pain, and physical and emotional factors can also contribute to the sensations of pain.

Consult a Professional

If you are experiencing joint symptoms and are wondering if it is arthritis, then perhaps it is time to consult a doctor in your area. Because there are so many types of arthritis and such a variety of conditions that affect the joints, diagnosis can be difficult. Most people suffering from joint pain usually start with their primary care physician and are then referred to medical specialists called rheumatologists, experts in arthritis and related diseases.

Dr. Jack Waxman of NCMA’s FountainGrove Rheumatology is a highly skilled rheumatologist who is able to provide patients with diagnostics, treatment and management of a full spectrum of rheumatologic health conditions. In addition to general rheumatologic medicine services, treatment of arthritic diseases and fibromyalgia, vasculitis, connective tissue diseases, osteoporosis, bone density scanning and infusion therapy is also available. To learn more visit the NCMA website or call (707) 573-6942 to make an appointment today.

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Additional Resources:

The Arthritis Foundation — http://www.arthritis.org/