By Sharon D. Allison-Ottey, M.D.
Dear Dr. Sharon,
I\’m a 64-year-old Black man and I own a home repair company. My knees have started to bother me, especially at the end of the day. It used to be every once-in-a-while, but now, the pain and stiffness is more frequent. My doc- tor told me that I have arthritis; he also said my blood pressure levels are high. I take Aleve and that helps my knees, but I don\’t want to have to take a pill all the time. Although my health is pretty good, I could stand to lose a few pounds. What can I do about my knees? I still need to work.
â€”Joseph, Greensboro, NC
Dear GT Reader,
You are not unlike many of us that have joints that begin to hurt. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States and limits the activities of nearly 19 million adults.
The word arthritis actually means joint inflammation. This term describes more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, and surrounding connective tissues. The pattern, severity and location of symptoms can vary depending on the specific form of the disease.
Common types of Arthritis:
Osteoarthritis (the most common) â€¢ Associated with a breakdown of cartilage (firm, rubbery material that covers the ends of bones in normal joints). â€¢ Most commonly occurs in the weight bearing joints (hips, knees, and spine).
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
â€¢ Primarily affects the lining of the joints; can also affect multiple joints of the body and other organs. â€¢ Pain, swelling, and redness are common symptoms.
Although the definitive causes are unknown, RA is believed to be the result of a faulty immune response.
â€¢ A chronic disease resulting from deposits of uric acid crystals in tissues and fluids within the body.
â€¢ Certain common medications, alcohol intake, and dietary foods are known to be contributory factors. Acute gout will typically manifest itself as an acutely red, hot, and swollen joint with excruciating pain.
â€¢ May be prevented with medication and diet changes.
Risk factors for arthritis that you can\’t change:
Age: The risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.
Gender: 60% of all people with arthritis are women. Gout is more common in men.
Genetic: Specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Lupus.
Risk factors for arthritis that you can change:
Excess weight and Obesity: Excess weight can contribute to both the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis.
Joint Injuries: Damage to a joint can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint.
Infection: Many microbial agents can infect joints and potentially cause the development of various forms of arthritis.
Occupation: Certain occupations involving repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. You may have issues with this due to your job.
Joseph, I suggest that you talk with your physician about weight loss, exercise, your body mechanics at work and in general. You can manage the arthritis! Speak with your doctor about rubs/ointments and natural products like glucosamine chondrotin as well as traditional medicine. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. There is no â€œruleâ€ that says you must have surgery, especially if you consistently manage your condition. Above all, as with everything, take this to God in prayer!