Arthritis isn’t a single disease. In fact, arthritis is an umbrella term that covers a group of more than 100 conditions that affect the joints and their connective tissues, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout.
At the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, we diagnose and treat all forms of arthritis. Although arthritis does tend to run in families and have a genetic component, our expert rheumatologists also believe that lifestyle choices can influence whether, or how severely, you suffer from arthritis.
If you’re worried about the arthritis on your family tree, here’s what you should know.
Your genes don’t write your fate
Many forms of arthritis are linked to specific genes, but even if you inherit those genes, you don’t necessarily inherit a crippling form of arthritis. Just the fact that you’re aware that arthritis runs in your family can give you a head start on managing, or even preventing, arthritis.
For instance, if members of your family have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may have inherited the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II genotypes, which raise your risk for RA in the first place or make your RA more severe than normal.
But your risk for developing RA with these genes is higher if you:
- Are obese
- Are a smoker
- Are a woman who’s never given birth
- Were born to low-income parents
- Were born to a mother who smoked
While you can’t control the genes you inherited, nor can you go back and rewrite your childhood history, you can modify your current lifestyle to decrease your risk. If you’re obese or overweight, we refer you to a medically supervised weight loss program to ease stress on your joints.
If you smoke or are exposed to environmental toxins or stress, we may refer you to a smoking cessation program or a counselor who can help you change your lifestyle.
Feed your joints
Choosing the right foods and activities protects your joints from inflammation and injury, which are two factors that could create or worsen arthritis. If you already have arthritis or if it runs in your family, focus your diet on fresh, healthful, and anti-inflammatory foods, such as:
- Pastured, lean meats
- Fatty fish
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Red and purple fruits and veggies
- Olive oil
If you already have a particular form of arthritis, such as gout, you may need to make further adjustments, such as cutting down on high-purine foods, including red meats and seafood.
That’s why it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as you notice the symptoms of arthritis, such as:
- Stiff joints
- Aching joints
- Swollen joints
- Trouble walking or moving
- Pain when performing repetitive movements
Our rheumatologists take your family and personal history, conduct blood tests and imaging studies, and perform a comprehensive physical exam to determine if you have arthritis.
If you do, we then diagnose the type of arthritis and custom-design a treatment plan to keep your joints healthy and safe.
Lubricate your joints
Even though movement may feel painful when you have arthritis, moving your joints keeps them healthy.
Your joints are lined with synovial tissue, which protects the bones. When you bend and flex or use your joint, the synovial tissue releases a lubricant called synovial fluid, which reduces friction when you move.
But if you make repetitive movements for your job or hobby, see us for recommendations on how to avoid joint injuries that can lead to osteoarthritis. If you play sports, wear protective gear that reduces your risk for joint trauma.
Subdue inflammation and pain
If you do have arthritis or suffer from joint pain, we may recommend medications or treatments that prevent arthritis from getting worse.
You may also be a candidate for regenerative therapies, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP), which help your body repair synovial tissue and cartilage and subdue inflammation.
Don’t worry about arthritis. Prevent it and treat it. If you think you have arthritis or are at risk for it, contact us at the office nearest you — in Somerville, Flemington, or Monroe, New Jersey — for relief.