When it comes to making a diagnosis of arthritis, that is best left up to the physician or specialty physician. It is important to separate arthritis from other medical conditions that may look somewhat like arthritis, including things such as immune disorders and fibromyalgia. Your doctor will be able to explain the variety of differences between medical illnesses, hopefully honing in on your exact diagnosis.
First, arthritis is inflammation in the joint. This leads to stiffness, soreness, swelling, restriction of range of motion of the joint, and pain. With enough inflammation, the cushion, or “cartilage” ( the rubbery material in the joint that acts like a shock absorber) breaks down. The most common type is the wear and tear arthritis, osteoarthritis. There are other types, including rheumatoid (immune system attacking the joint lining), gout (high uric acid), disease-based (Lupus or Psoriasis), but they all lead to damage of the joint. Treatment is determined by the type of arthritis that is causing the damage.
When I see a patient for the first time and mention to them I feel they may have Parkinson's or a related condition, that is the last thing the patient hears. They think that their life is over, they won't be able to get out of the bed or the wheelchair, and won't be able to talk or communicate. That is the farthest thing from the truth. Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects a certain part of the brain, and leads to a movement disorder. It is a human condition, certain cells of the brain stop producing a chemical, dopamine, that is very important in movement. I explain to patients that anyone that lives long enough will likely have this process, and then try to go on to educate the patient regarding the disorder.
Alzheimer's – a word that brings fear to most senior adults. But what is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's is a disorder of the brain that leads to a decline in memory, comprehension, thinking, and judgment. Often this is a slow process; occasionally it occurs more rapidly. Frequently, memory loss is the first sign of this disorder.
However, not all individuals with memory loss have Alzheimer's disease. It is quite common to misplace your car keys, your glasses, or forget the name of someone you know. However, most people will find their keys and glasses and recall the name of their friend later in the day. Many individuals find that they need to make lists more frequently in order to keep up with daily tasks. Usually, these changes are fairly easily managed and do not interfere with most independent life activities.
Unfortunately, in some individuals, the cognitive changes, memory loss, and social impairments become progressive and can lead to a concern that the patient has dementia. "Dementia" is a general term that simply means a waxing and waning of cognitive ability. This often will involve impairment of thinking, judgment, memory, concentration, and behavior.