Treatment Options for Arthritis

Dr. Dimitrios Fanopoulos is a rheumatologist with a geriatric specialty at Beloit Health System. One of the most common reasons patients come to see him is because of pain, connected with their loss of ability to do activities that were easy for them in the past.

A lot of those symptoms can be associated with arthritis, an inflammation of joints that typically affects the aging population, though there are some forms that do affect young people.

In fact, 95% of elderly patients have degenerative arthritis, but that doesn’t mean they all feel debilitating pain, Fanopoulos says. Some might have severe arthritis but not much pain.

When patients do complain of pain, there are always treatment options. Pain medication is not always the first option.

Physical therapy should come first, Fanopoulos says, because it can improve function without the side effects that often accompany medication.

Other treatment plans can include steroid injections to joints, tendons or muscles, or, especially for knees, lubricant injections in the joint. Both types of injections can provide temporary relief – sometimes lasting for months – and can be repeated if necessary: steroid injections every four months, lubricant injections every six months.

“If they work or they work partially and a patient is feeling comfortable with daily activities, this is an option,” Fanopoulos says.

If arthritis continues to worsen, it might be time to see an orthopedic surgeon for joint replacement – typically knees, hips or shoulders, he says. ❚