Degenerative Joint Disease

What is it?

egenerative Joint DiseaseDegenerative Joint Disease, also known as arthritis, affects an estimated 47 million Americans1 across all age and racial groups. The terms “degenerative joint disease” and “arthritis” often refer to one of more than 100 chronic ailments that affect joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Though certain types of degenerative joint disease tend to afflict more mature patients, it is not restricted to the elderly — anyone of any age can be affected.

Symptoms

The symptoms of degenerative joint disease are different for everyone, but most often include a combination of the following:

  • Continual or recurring pain, stiffness, and/or swelling in a (joint or joints)
  • Difficulty moving a (joint or joints) in a normal manner

Diagnosis

Degenerative Joint DiseaseBecause the symptoms of degenerative joint disease often mimic other serious ailments, it is important to consult your physician for a diagnosis. In addition to listening carefully to your symptoms, and asking questions, your physician will likely perform imaging and/or lab tests to make a diagnosis. These tests may include a combination of the following:

  • X-Ray or MRI of the affected joint area(s)
  • Blood and/or urinalysis
  • Arthrocentesis or joint aspiration

To gain an accurate diagnosis, it is important that you clearly and carefully describe your symptoms to your physician.

Treatments

Because the type and severity of degenerative joint disease varies widely from one patient to the next, there are a variety of successful treatments for it. For any of them to succeed, the patient and his or her family must be active, dynamic parts of the treatment process. The goal of all arthritis treatments is the same — to relieve pain and restore as much use of the joint(s) as possible.

As part of your individual treatment plan, your physician is likely to recommend a combination of the following:

  • Specific exercises to moderate swelling and pain in the affected joint(s)
  • Exercised to restore mobility in the joint(s)
  • Pain management, including heat or cold therapy, massage, and/or acupuncture
  • Immobilization of joint(s) to avoid further injury or damage
  • Assistive and/or support devices
  • Weight control and/or nutritional counseling

For best results, it is vital that you and your family understand the goals of the recommended treatments. If you have questions, please ask! The key to a successful treatment plan is a well-educated patient.

Helpful Hints

  • If there is a change in your symptoms, such as increased or unusual pain, please let your physician know right away.

Asthma

What is it?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by three airway problems —  inflammation, obstruction, and hyper-responsiveness. It most often affects people aged 5 to 17, or over the age of 65, those who also suffer from allergies, and those who live in urban areas.

Asthma

Symptoms

Asthma symptoms and their severity will vary from patient to patient, but may include a combination of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing, or pain when breathing
  • Wheezing or coughing during physical activity
  • A persistent, chronic night-time cough

Diagnosis

AsthmaBecause the symptoms of asthma often mimic other ailments, such as emphysema or bronchitis, it is important to consult your physician for a diagnosis. In addition to listening carefully to your symptoms, and asking questions, your physician will likely perform imaging and/or lab tests to make a diagnosis. These tests may include a combination of the following, and may be repeated to gauge the effectiveness of various treatments:

  • Spirometry: the patient breathes into a spirometer, which measures how much and how well the patient’s lung receive and hold air, and to detect any airway restriction or obstruction.
  • Peak Flow Monitoring: this test measures how quickly the patient can exhale, or breathe air out of the lungs.
  • Blood test:  a vial of the patient’s blood is drawn and analyzed to check levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide
  • Chest X-ray

Again, your physician may want to perform these tests once an asthma diagnosis has been made, and a treatment plan started, to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.

Treatments

Today, there is no cure for asthma, though there are several options for effective treatment to relieve and manage asthma symptoms.

Because asthma is a chronic disease, it is important that patients follow their individual treatment plan, even when they are not experiencing symptoms. Components of a successful treatment plan will include:

  • Identifying and avoiding asthma episode triggers
  • Medication therapy to alleviate or relieve asthma symptoms
  • Patient self-monitoring and education, so the patient can identify when their symptoms are worsening
  • Physician testing and monitoring to track the progress and effectiveness of the asthma treatment plan

It may be necessary to alter the components of a treatment plan several times before an effective, successful plan is found.

Helpful Hints

  • If there is a change in your symptoms, or in the frequency or severity of your symptoms, please let your physician know right away.
  • If you’re unclear about a test, diagnosis, or any part of your treatment plan, please ask your physician. The more you know, the more successful your treatment plan will be!

Acid Reflux

What is it?

Also known as “GERD” or “acid reflux,” gastroesophageal reflux disease is characterized most often by heartburn, which is caused by gastric acid entering the esophagus from the stomach. This acid reflux is thought to happen when a particular muscle at the top of the stomach, the LES, is “flexed” too long, or too often, allowing the flow of acid back into the esophagus.

Acid Reflux

Symptoms

The most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease is heartburn, or acid indigestion. Heartburn is often described as a painful burning in the chest, neck, or throat. Other symptoms can include:

  • A mild cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing

Diagnosis

Acid RefluxBecause the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease often mimic other ailments, such as ulcers or gastritis, it is important to consult your physician for a diagnosis. In addition to listening carefully to your symptoms, and asking questions, your physician will likely perform imaging and/or lab tests to make a diagnosis. These tests may include a combination of the following:

  • Upper GI: the patient swallows barium, a thick, chalky fluid, which allows the esophagus and stomach to be examined and evaluated via X-ray.
  • Upper Endoscopy: a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope is guided into a patient’s esophagus, allowing the physician to examine the region.
  • pH monitoring: the patient wears a small monitor for one or two days, during which time the monitor detects and records levels of acidity in the patient’s esophagus.
  • Esophageal Manometry: this test allows a physician to look for abnormalities in the way a patient uses their esophageal muscles to swallow.

To gain an accurate diagnosis, it is important that you clearly and carefully describe your symptoms to your physician.

Treatments

Because gastroesophageal reflux disease can be caused by many factors, your physician will likely recommend a combination of the following the successfully reduce your symptoms:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Weight loss, if applicable
  • Consuming less alcohol
  • Limiting the consumption of certain foods and beverages, such as those containing tomatoes, citrus, alcohol, chocolate, or coffee.
  • Eating smaller portions
  • Avoid eating or drinking right before bed.

Your physician may also scrutinize the medications you are taking, as some of them may contribute to gastroesophageal reflux disease. He or she may also recommend an over-the-counter antacid to treat your heartburn symptoms.

Helpful Hints

  • If there is a change in your symptoms, or if they worsen, let your physician know right away.
  • If you’re unclear about a test, diagnosis, or any part of your treatment plan, please ask your physician. The more you know, the more successful your treatment plan will be!

      Common Cold

      What is it?

      An upper respiratory infection, also called the common cold, is referred to as such because it is one of the most common ailments, the cause of more doctor visits and more days of missed school and work than any other ailment. Among the more than 200 viruses that cause the inflammation of the nose and throat, the most common is the rhinovirus. “Cold season” runs with the traditional school year, beginning in early September and ending when weather warms, in early spring.

      Common Cold

      Symptoms

      Symptoms of the cold vary from patient to patient, but can include a combination of the following:

      • Discharge from the nose and/or sneezing
      • A sore or scratchy, irritated throat and/or mild hacking cough
      • Watery eyes
      • Mild fatigue
      • Low-grade fever and/or chills
      • Mild muscle ache and/or headache

      Note that the common cold is a completely different ailment that influenza (“the flu”). Cold and flu symptoms may often be similar, but there are some differences

      Common Cold

      Diagnosis

      Because the symptoms of the common cold often mimic other ailments, such the flu or a bacterial infection, it is important to consult your physician for a diagnosis. A cold diagnosis is most often based on an analysis of the patient’s symptoms, so it’s important to describe your symptoms and their severity accurately.

      Treatment

      There is no cure for the common cold, but there are treatments that can alleviate some of the symptoms. Recommended treatments include:

      Drinking plenty of clear fluids
      Smoking cessation (for adults) or limiting exposure to second-hand smoke (for children)
      Saline nose drops and/or a cool mist humidifier
      Acetaminophen for aches and pains (DO NOT give aspirin to a child with a fever, as this may cause Reyes syndrome)
      Antibiotics will NOT cure a cold, or make it go away faster, so your physician will not prescribe them to treat a cold.

      Please also note that in 2007, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on over-the-counter cold medications for children under the age of 6.

      Helpful Hints

      To prevent the spread of a cold virus, please stay home if you are sick, and keep your child home from school or day-care if he or she is sick.

      To prevent catching a cold, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, and teach your children to do the same.

      If there is a change in your symptoms, please let your physician know right away. For some pediatric patients, a cold can lead to other ailments, such as an ear, sinus, or throat infection.

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