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Arthritis: Early Treatment Can Make a Difference

More than 30 percent of people ages 45 to 64, and nearly half of those 65 and older, have been diagnosed with arthritis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jose Vigario, DO

Still, arthritis is not something you have to accept as part of getting older, says Jose Vigario, DO, a geriatrician with Princeton Medicine, the primary and specialty care physician network of Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS). With early diagnosis and treatment, many people can control arthritic pain, swelling and stiffness and live full lives.

“It is difficult to prevent arthritis, but we can help prevent the disabilities that arthritis can cause,” says Dr. Vigario, who is board certified in internal medicine and geriatric medicine. “With a well-designed treatment plan, we can help people have a better quality of life well into their 80s and beyond.”

What’s Normal?

As we age, it’s normal to wake up with joint stiffness or experience episodes of joint pain that last a few days, Dr. Vigario says. Joint pain becomes a concern when it:

  • Doesn’t improve after you’re up and moving for 30 to 60 minutes in the morning
  • Is accompanied by fever, redness or swelling (signs of diseases that impact joints, such as gout, lupus and Lyme disease)
  • Persists for more than a week or for several episodes in a month

Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis can be diagnosed through physical exam, X-rays and the removal of fluid from the joint to test for infection.

Osteoarthritis (the breakdown of joints due to age or injury) and rheumatoid arthritis or RA (an autoimmune condition where the body attacks joint linings) are the most common forms.

Osteoarthritis is often treated with a combination of pain medication, physical therapy to strengthen joints, occupational therapy to learn to protect joints when you move, assistive devices and therapies such as acupuncture. Joint replacement surgery is a final option.

RA is not as common as osteoarthritis, but early diagnosis can be critical, since it can rapidly cause permanent joint damage. Aggressive treatment with chemotherapy and biologic medicines may be recommended to stop the progression of the disease.

“A lot of people recognize the symptoms of arthritis, but they think there’s not a lot they can do about it — that it’s just part of getting older,” Dr. Vigario says. “There are many things we can do to make your life better so you can live with less or possibly no pain.”

To find a physician affiliated with Princeton Medicine, call 1.800.FINDADR (1.800.346.3237), or visit www.princetonhcs.org.

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Specialized Physical Therapy, LLC
Dr. Edward H. Feldman, D.C., C.N.
St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center