Diagnosed with osteoarthritis? You are not alone! According to the CDC, over 32.5 million Americans are affected by osteoarthritis.1

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease where your body’s cartilage deteriorates over time. The cartilage is like a shock absorber between the bones, and when it breaks down, it can lead to pain. OA can affect any joint, but most commonly affects the hips, hands, knees, and spine. Living with OA can be challenging due to joint pain and stiffness, joint swelling and reduced range of motion.

Because osteoarthritis affects the joints, it is often first diagnosed or managed by your primary care physician. While a rheumatologist might not be the first specialist you see for osteoarthritis, their expertise can significantly contribute to comprehensive and tailored management of the condition to help you achieve a healthy and active lifestyle for years to come.

Rheumatologists specialize in treating musculoskeletal ailments and autoimmune disorders. They can help you understand your unique condition by providing an accurate diagnosis and creating a comprehensive treatment plan.

Physical examination, description of symptoms, imaging and possibly lab testing will be a necessary first step at diagnosing OA. Following an accurate diagnosis, your rheumatologist collaborates with you to manage symptoms. They'll guide you through diverse treatment options and will tailor a plan for treatment that is in line with your goals of care.

After you have been diagnosed with OA, the goal of treatment is to have you maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. Common treatment plans may include using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen), topical medications, medications that target any nerve pain associated with OA, steroid or gel injections, and bracing. Exercise, physical therapy and/or occupational therapy are typically a necessary part of each individualized treatment plan. Pain management specialists may also be a good resource depending on which joints are affected. As a last resort, surgical options may be necessary depending on how bad the osteoarthritis is and how you respond to the aforementioned treatments. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important, specifically for OA affecting the lower back, knees or hips.

Great patient outcomes are achieved through communication and shared decision-making with your healthcare provider. A strong physician-patient partnership is essential for creating an effective, individualized treatment plan that is in line with your goals and will effectively treat OA. At Illinois Bone & Joint Institute, rheumatologists use the latest diagnostic tests, medications, and procedural techniques to ensure high-quality care for patients.

Don’t let an osteoarthritis diagnosis get you down. Take the next steps toward wellness at  Illinois Bone & Joint Institute. Our board-certified rheumatologists can provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan with one-stop solutions for arthritis patients. We can accurately diagnose your condition with on-site labs and imaging and can customize a treatment plan for your condition that will allow you to maintain your active and independent lifestyle.

About the Author

Andrew Benck, MD is a board certified rheumatologist who specializes in the treatment of autoimmune and musculoskeletal disorders. Dr. Benck practices shared decision-making with his patients, allowing for a tailored treatment to control disease, improve functionality, comfort, and quality of life.

1 Osteoarthritis

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