Driving on bald tires? Arthritis is kind of like that
If you want to understand arthritis, take a look at your tires.
Bald tires expose the underlying steel belts, and with little thread to grip the road, driving becomes risky.
Arthritis, which literally means “swollen joint,” shows up mainly in two forms: osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the mechanical “wearing out” of the cartilage in the joint, like the thread on your tires. Worn out cartilage exposes the underlying bone.
In inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid, the synovial lining of the joint produces extensive inflammation, which also degrades the cartilage. It is, in effect, your own immune system signaling the lining of the joint to act up.
On your car, it would be as if a chemical came in contact with the rubber in your tires, causing them to soften and wear out much faster than normal.
There are several other types of inflammation arthritis, such as psoriatic, ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter’s syndrome, etc. They have different features and affect different areas, but inflammation is common to all of them.
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Treating arthritis is a bit more complicated than replacing your tires. Treatments, which depend on the type, location, severity and patient activity level, include anti-inflammatories (steroid or non-steroidal) and cortisone injections.
Joint replacement happens when arthritis is too severe cannot effectively be treated by cortisone or oral medications.
Timothy J. Kinkead, MD is an orthopaedic surgeon at Cape Cod Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. He is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Duke University Medical Center.