Arthritis May Be a Cause
Pain, swelling, stiffness, warmth and limited motion in one or more joints are the familiar symptoms of joint inflammation. Joint inflammation may be due to an infection or injury or it could be the sign of a disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Any inflamed joint should be examined by a physician to determine the exact cause.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to reduce the swelling and pain of joint inflammation. They stop the production of substances called prostaglandins which cause inflammation.
Goal of Treatment: Most cases of joint inflammation in older people are due to arthritis. The word itself simply means “inflammation of a joint.” In osteoarthritis, the weight-bearing joints in the lower back, hips, knees, ankles and feet are affected. Rheumatoid arthritis involves joints in the fingers and toes and later the wrists, knees and shoulders. The physician may want to obtain a sample of the fluid in the joint (called synovial fluid) to look for substances (called prostaglandins) which are responsible for the inflammatory response. The goal of treatment of an inflamed joint is to reduce the pain and swelling while permitting the joint to heal. In addition to drug therapy, your physician will prescribe a program of rest, exercise, support of joints and provide emotional support. This program will prevent or greatly reduce progression of the inflammatory process. Drugs used to reduce the swelling are known as Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs. They work by stopping the production of prostaglandins, the substances responsible for joint inflammation. Several days or weeks of medication may be necessary to obtain relief from the pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected joint.
Salicylates: Aspirin is the most commonly used salicylate NSAID. High doses are required to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases with joint inflammation. It is important to watch for the signs of toxicity from these high doses, such as ringing in the ears or dizziness. Other side effects are stomach upset or burning sensations. Your doctor may want to change your medication to avoid these side effects. In addition to aspirin, prescription salicylates, such as Disalcid, Tricosal and Trilisate, are available.
Other NSAIDs: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and Nuprin) is equal to or more potent than aspirin and may cause fewer side effects. It is available without a prescription and your pharmacist can help you select the right product and dose. Other NSAIDs available are prescription products and include: Anaprox, Butazolidin, Clinoril, Dolobid, Feldene, Indocin, Meclomen, Nalfon, Naprosyn, Orudis, Tolectin and Voltaren.
All NSAIDS may cause gastric upset, gastritis or bleeding by damaging the stomach lining. This is especially true when high doses are taken. Patients with a high risk of stomach damage from these drugs include those over 60 years of age, smokers, heavy alcoholic drinkers, have a history of ulcers or stomach problems, and those who take other drugs which may irritate the stomach lining.
Be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any of these risk factors and if you are already taking a NSAID.