When you think of arthritis, chances are good that your first thought is of your grandparents, parents — or even your own aging joints! Most of us view this medical condition as something that only old people get, yet the truth is that anyone can be diagnosed with arthritis. This is particularly true if a person suffers an injury to their joints.
A car accident can be the kind of injury that causes arthritis to develop in a joint. Instead of damage occurring all at once, as is typical, it happens gradually over time as the joint wears out. The end result is that a person of any age may suffer from chronic pain, stiffness, loss of flexibility and other symptoms of arthritis.
Because most people don’t think about a link between arthritis and car accidents, this type of injury may be overlooked in a car crash case. This can leave victims without proper compensation for their damages. For this reason, if you have been hurt in a wreck, you will need a skilled Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer to help you recover fully for your losses.
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the term commonly used for the medical condition osteoarthritis. Occurring when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down, it affects millions of people worldwide. Although arthritis can affect any joint, it typically affects joints in your hands, knees, hips, and spine.
While there are treatments to manage the symptoms of arthritis, once the joints have been damaged, the condition cannot be reversed. Some treatments can slow the progression of the disease.
Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Pain in the affected joints, particularly during or after movement
- Stiffness, most noticeably upon awakening or after being inactive
- Loss of flexibility in the affected joints
- Tenderness when light pressure is applied to or near affected joints
- Bone spurs may form around affected joints
- Swelling due to soft tissue inflammation around the affected joints
- Grating sensation, popping or cracking when using the affected joints.
Typically, arthritis occurs as the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in your joints deteriorates over time. Cartilage is the tissue that allows your joints to move with little to no friction. This firm, slippery tissue may degenerate over time, leading to bone rubbing on bone.
In addition to cartilage breaking down, arthritis affects the entire joint. It can cause changes in the bones of the joint and the breakdown of the connective tissues that hold the joint together. It also leads to inflammation of the joint lining.
While older age and certain other factors, such as obesity and sex, are often the leading causes of osteoarthritis, there are other risk factors. For example, any injury to a joint, such as one that occurs while playing a sport or that is suffered in an accident, can increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
Over time, arthritis leads to chronic pain. Joint pain and stiffness may become severe enough to make daily tasks of living difficult. Sleep disturbances and depression may also result from the pain and disabling nature of osteoarthritis.
Arthritis is diagnosed through a physical exam, possibly combined with imaging tests such as x-rays and an MRI. A doctor may also run blood tests or perform a joint fluid analysis to rule out other causes of joint pain.
There are a number of treatments that can help to reduce the pain associated with arthritis. This includes medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and certain antidepressants that can be used to treat chronic pain. Physical and occupational therapy, injections of cortisone or hyaluronic acid, or surgery (such as an osteotomy or joint replacement) may also be recommended.
How a Motor Vehicle Collision Can Lead to Arthritis
Most Americans are familiar with arthritis that a person may develop as they age. An individual can be diagnosed with the same type of arthritis — osteoarthritis — after they suffer a traumatic injury to their joints. If you consider how arthritis develops, the fact that a person can develop arthritis after a car accident shouldn’t be surprising.
Arthritis develops is due to damage to the cartilage. While this typically happens over time, it can also occur suddenly, such as in a motor vehicle crash. If the cartilage is torn or ripped away during an accident, then it will no longer be in place to cushion the bones as the joint moves — leading to arthritis.
Even if the cartilage itself is not damaged in an accident, any type of joint injury can change the way that the joint functions. For example, ligament damage may cause joint instability, leading to the bones of the joint rubbing against the cartilage differently or in a more aggressive way than they normally would. This can damage the cartilage and lead to early-onset arthritis.
If you have been in a Washington, D.C. car accident and suffered an injury to your joint(s), it is important to talk to your doctor about the possibility of developing arthritis. This condition can lead to lifelong, chronic pain. It may require years of therapy to alleviate the symptoms or lead to surgical intervention.
While you may develop arthritis from a car wreck in any joint that suffered an injury, it isn’t unusual to suffer an injury to your leg in an accident. Your hips, knees, and ankles are all vulnerable to developing arthritis. Similarly, a back or neck injury may lead to arthritis in the spine, particularly after a crash involving whiplash.
A skilled Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer will analyze the full scope of your injuries to ensure that you are properly compensated for your losses, including post-traumatic arthritis. If an insurance company isn’t willing to give you a fair settlement, then your attorney can take the case to trial to make sure that you get the money that you deserve for your injuries.
Hurt in an Accident? Get Help Today.
Too often, victims of Washington, D.C. car accidents accept an early settlement without realizing the full extent of their injuries. This includes the possibility that they will develop arthritis from an injury to their joints. At Patrick Malone & Associates, we aggressively pursue full compensation for our clients, whether it be through a settlement with the insurance company or a jury award at trial.
Our firm was founded on the principle that everyone deserves justice. We understand that our clients are going through an incredibly stressful time, and work hard to ease their stress as we fight for their rights. Call us today at 202-742-1500 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation with a Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer.