Rheumatology Frequently Asked Questions

If my father and mother had arthritis, does that mean I'll get it?

While researchers suspect that some forms of arthritis have genetic links, having parents with arthritis does not necessarily mean that you will develop it. There are other triggers that can lead to arthritis, and the causes of many forms of arthritis are not fully understood.

My doctor has recommended surgery for my arthritis. What do I need to know?

For some people, joint replacement and other types of surgery can provide significant pain relief and restore physical function. The Arthritis Foundation provides free information about what to expect from your surgery, the rehabilitation process and how to prepare for surgery.

Where is the best place to live if I have arthritis?

Areas with a dry, hot climate (such as the southwestern United States) have been found to reduce some of the symptoms of arthritis but cannot change the underlying disease or potential damage it may cause. You should visit an area for an extended period of time before making a final decision to move.

I have an uncommon rheumatic disease. Where can I find more information about it?

If your condition is uncommon, visit the website of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, which has an extensive information library.

I want to start an exercise program, and I have arthritis. What should I do?

Speak to your doctor first to find out which forms of exercise will best suit your particular physical condition. Consider developing your exercise program with the help of a physical therapist or personal trainer skilled in working with people who have arthritis. Water exercises can be particularly effective for persons with joint conditions.

What is the ideal temperature for warm water exercise programs?

83 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

I'm experiencing some side effects from my medication. Is that normal?

All drugs, even over-the-counter medications, have potential side effects, which you'll find listed on the package or on an inserted sheet. You should be familiar with the information, and be aware of the side effects that require immediate medical attention. Your doctor or pharmacist can also provide more specific information about side effects based on your medical history and other medications you may be taking. Please contact your doctor or seek emergency treatment right away if you're experiencing problems.

Will my arthritis medication(s) interact with other medications?

There can sometimes be dangerous interactions between medications. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about potential problems. Using your medical history and medication plan, they can quickly determine any potentially harmful interactions.

I've been using an alternative treatment that I heard about on the news. Is it safe?

There are many alternative and complementary therapies. Some can be safe and effective, while others can be quite dangerous. We recommend that you speak to your doctor before trying any new treatment to determine safety and potential interactions with other medications you may be taking.

What is the difference between osteoporosis and osteoarthritis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose mass and become more porous, resulting in brittle bones that are more prone to fracture. We all reach our peak bone mass around age 35. From that time, our bones start getting thinner. Since estrogen helps to maintain bone thickness, the drop in estrogen level during menopause causes the bone loss to increase. Calcium, Vitamin D, exercise, hormone replacement therapy and certain medications can help slow bone loss.

Osteoarthritis is the wearing down of cartilage in the joint. The body responds by creating new bone but not necessarily in the correct position. This new growth may make some joints appear larger and misshapen and can make the space between the bones smaller. The bones may then rub against one another, interfering with the joint's normal function.

Are there complementary or alternative therapies I can use?

Although little evidence supports the benefit of chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and herbal remedies for osteoarthritis, these may provide pain relief of an affected joint. It is important to communicate your use of complementary therapies with your healthcare provider to ensure that these treatments do not interfere with your other medical conditions or therapies.

If I have fibromyalgia, am I at risk for arthritis or other musculoskeletal diseases?

People who have fibromyalgia are not at greater risk for any other musculoskeletal disease.