Nearly 60 million Americans have arthritis that’s been diagnosed by a doctor, and many more suffer from the symptoms without seeking medical care. More than 20 million American adults have some form of neuropathy, which is nerve injury or damage that causes pain, tingling, numbness, and other nerve-related problems.
Both arthritis and neuropathy can occur alone, and both can have different sources or causes. But there are some patients that have both conditions, and, in fact, there’s medical data that shows that for many people, the two conditions can be related.
As a leading pain management specialist in Pembroke Pines, Florida, David Berkower, DO, is skilled in managing complex pain conditions that involve multiple medical causes. If you have neuropathy and arthritis, here’s how the two could be related.
Arthritis and neuropathy 101
Arthritis and neuropathy can both cause acute and chronic pain, but the way they cause those symptoms is very different.
Arthritis is a major cause of joint pain and stiffness, occurring when the joint’s protective cartilage layer is damaged or destroyed. Most people think of arthritis as one condition, but actually, there are different types of arthritis.
The most common type is osteoarthritis (OA), which is arthritis that typically happens as a result of wear and tear that causes cartilage to break down in your joints. More than 32 million Americans have OA.
Although less common, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) also causes joint damage. But instead of being caused by wear and tear, the damage caused by RA is associated with an irregular immune system response. In RA, your immune system attacks healthy joint tissue, resulting in pain, stiffness, and joint disfigurement. About 1.3 million American adults have RA.
Neuropathy is a term that’s used to describe damage to nerves that reside outside of the brain and spinal cord. Neuropathy, also called peripheral neuropathy, often causes symptoms that radiate in the limbs. These symptoms include:
- Dull aching
- Sharp or shock-like bursts of pain
- Tingling or numbness
- Burning sensations
- Loss of movement or coordination
Without medical treatment, nerve damage can become permanent.
The link between arthritis and neuropathy
Even though arthritis and neuropathy affect different “components” of your body — your joints and your nerves — for some men and women, there’s a definite link between the two.
Rheumatoid arthritis and neuropathy
Arthritis-related neuropathy is most often associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, as many as 85% of RA patients also have neuropathy.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why these two issues are related. They do know nerve problems tend to be more common in people with more severe rheumatoid arthritis and among those who’ve had RA for a long time.
Some nerve symptoms may be related to joint deformity associated with RA, or to nerve pressure caused by nodules that form in some people with RA. In addition, some medicines used to treat autoimmune disorders have also been linked with nerve symptoms and nerve damage.
Osteoarthritis and neuropathy
Some people with OA may also develop nerve problems. In these patients, it’s not always the disease process that causes neuropathy, but the symptoms, as well.
For instance, if you have arthritis in your knees or hips, you might alter how you walk, putting more strain and pressure on your other limbs. This shift in pressure and weight may wind up irritating nerves or causing swelling that crowds nerve pathways. In this way, osteoarthritis can cause some degree of nerve problems, as well.
Chronic pain can take a big toll on your quality of life, but finding long-lasting relief can be difficult, especially if you’re dealing with two conditions. The key to relieving your persistent symptoms is to work closely with a pain specialist, such as Dr. Berkower, who can tailor your treatment to your needs, even as those needs change over time.
If you’re suffering from arthritis pain, nerve pain, or both, take the first step toward finding relief. Call 954-430-9972 or book an appointment online with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation today.