Arthritis is diagnosed through blood test, MRIs or x-rays or arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is a minor surgical procedure done on an outpatient basis in which a doctor will insert a tool called an arthroscope in several small incisions to view how much damage is present in a joint. Repair of damaged joints are also performed during a procedure with an arthoscope. Blood tests can be used to differentiate between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Those with rheumatoid factors have antibodies in their blood known as Rheumatoid factors. Additional blood can be used that detect the presence anti-CCP proteins; a good predictor of the severity of rheumatoid arthritis or other rheumatic diseases. There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, the primary goals of treatment are to control inflammation and stop the progression of the disease. Treatment is routinely a combination of medication, exercise, and physical therapy and surgery; to correct any joint damage.
The most common type of drugs for RA is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). NSAIDs reduce inflammation and if used in conjunction with other drugs that may slow or stop RA progression. NSAIDs can be purchased over the counter in the form of ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). NSAIDs like all medications carry the risk of some side effects and can result in elevated blood pressure resulting in heart attack and stomach irritation such as ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. Drugs to slow the progression of RA include methotrexate; common brand names are Arava, Cytoxa, and Imuran.
Treatments for osteoarthritis are mostly preventative methods to relieve pain such as keeping a healthy weight, and exercising as to keep osteoarthritis from spreading to other joints within the body. Treatments center on pain relief and joint mobility. Similarly to Rheumatoid Arthritis, there is no cure for Osteoarthritis. If those don’t work medications such over-the-counter NSAIDs, or prescriptions NSAIDs can be taken to relieve pain in addition to topical creams to rub into affected joints such as Capsaicin. Over the counter medications such as Advil and Tylenol can be used for pain relief. In the case of chronic pain prescription pain relievers may be prescribed by a physician, but they carry the risk of dependency. Additionally, cortisone injections are routinely done to provide pain relief. Cortisone injections are administered by a medical professional, the joint is numbed and medication injected to provide longer lasting pain relief than oral pain medications alone. After treatment is initiated C-reactive protein (CRP) and Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) are used to detect and measure the amount of inflammation to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.