In this article we will look at:
- What is arthritis?
- Types of arthritis
- How does arthritis occur?
- Who is prone to arthritis?
- Symptoms of arthritis
- Diagnosis of arthritis
- Complications of arthritis
- Treatment for arthritis
You can click on any of the links above to navigate to the section of your interest.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is often misconstrued by most people to be a disease, which makes the bodily joints stiff and painful. However, it is not a single disease. Arthritis is an umbrella term for a number of medical disorders that involve the musculoskeletal system, specifically the joints or in other words, the areas where two or more bones meet in the body.
Types of Arthritis
There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis. The most common ones are:
- Osteoarthritis: also known as a degenerative joint disease, occurs when the cartilage between the bones begins to wear off, causing pain and stiffness in the joints.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: is a painful autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the joints causing inflammation in the tissue lining the insides of the joints.
- Gout: one of the most painful forms of arthritis, it occurs when there is too much uric acid in the body resulting in the formation of uric acid crystal deposits in joints
- Ankylosing spondylitis: is a form of arthritis that affects the spine. It can cause the vertebrae to fuse together causing pain and stiffness from the neck to the lower back.
- Juvenile arthritis: is a painful autoimmune disease which occurs in children younger than 16 years. The immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the joints causing inflammation in the tissue lining the insides of the joints.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus): is a disease in which the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the body. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
- Scleroderma: is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body produces too much collagen causing the skin and connective tissue to harden.
- Psoriatic arthritis: is a form of arthritis that causes inflammation of skin and joints. It occurs to people who have psoriasis, which is a skin disease related to the immune system.
- Polymyalgia Rheumatica: is a form of arthritis that causes muscle pain and stiffness, especially in the shoulders.
How does arthritis occur?
Some forms of arthritis, such as Osteoarthritis, occur when the cartilage between the bones begin to wear down. Cartilage is the connective, strong and fibrous tissue between the joints, which stimulates the smooth movement of the body, and helps in absorbing shocks while performing activities such as walking or running. A reduction of this tissue makes the joints stiff and painful.
Some other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Scleroderma, and Juvenile arthritis occur when the immune system of the body malfunctions by attacking the healthy tissue in the body. The cause for this is unknown.
Another form of arthritis, known as gout, occurs due to abnormal metabolism.
Who is prone to arthritis?
You might be prone to arthritis if :
- you have a family history of arthritis
- you have suffered frequent joint injuries
- suffer from frequent infections
- suffer from irregular metabolism
- suffer from obesity
- you are a woman (women tend to suffer from arthritis more than men)
What are the symptoms of arthritis? How is arthritis diagnosed?
People who suffer from arthritis usually complain of:
- joint stiffness (especially in the morning)
- skin rash
- mild fever
- joint swelling
- joint deformity
- joint pain ( especially in the morning)
To diagnose arthritis, the doctor performs a physical exam, and especially checks for painful swollen joints, stiffness, and loss of motion. Blood tests are done and X-rays are taken to determine the type of arthritis affecting you.
What are the complications of arthritis?
Arthritis can almost cripple day-to-day life. Unless treated effectively, any form of this disease has a long-term effect.
The most common complications that you may face as a result of this disease are:
- joint stiffness, causing you pain and restricting your bodily movements
- inflammation (if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis) in different parts of your body, including lungs, heart, eyes, and blood vessels
- heart diseases that can occur from any form of inflammatory arthritis
- bleeding inside the joints
- inflammation, swelling of and pain in joints
- rupture of ligaments around the joint
- carpel tunnel syndrome could affect you if you have rheumatoid arthritis
- inflammation in different parts of the body such as eyes, heart, lungs, and blood vessels if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation of blood vessels can also cause cardiovascular diseases.
What is the treatment for arthritis?
Currently there is no treatment which can completely cure arthritis, however, the right medical interventions can greatly help to reduce your symptoms.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to control the arthritis pain or to bring down the inflammation and swelling. Steroids are often prescribed to treat inflammatory arthritis. Steroids can be taken in tablet form, and can also be injected into the joints.
The doctor can also advise you to undergo different forms of therapy such as:
- Hydrotherapy: wherein you will be taught to exercise in a warm pool which will relax your muscles and joints.
- Physiotherapy: which consists of following an exercise regimen tailored to suit your specific needs. It can also include pain alleviating treatments such as ice-packs, heat-packs and massage.
- Occupational Therapy: which consists of enabling people to manage their daily activities efficiently by using specialised aids and tools.
Based on the seriousness of your condition the doctor may also advise you to opt for Joint Surgery. If your joint (s) ( hip, knee, shoulder, and elbows) have been damaged beyond repair, you will benefit greatly from the joint replacement surgery.
Regular exercising for around 20 mins can not only prevent arthritis but also help to ease the pain of arthritis. Exercise helps in keeping the blood flow smooth, which provides nutrition to the cartilage.
Exercising also helps in weight loss which in turn alleviates the symptoms of arthritis. Obesity, or even putting on some extra weight puts pressure on the joints. Therefore, overweight people are at an extra risk of arthritis.
Exercise makes the muscles stronger and bigger. The joints in the human body are surrounded by muscles. Therefore, when they grow stronger and bigger the joints are well protected. Once the muscles are stronger they take up the pressure instead of the joints taking up the pressure.
Swimming is a very good exercise for people with arthritis as it does not put pressure on the joints.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
Arthritis on the rise in India
Arthritis, especially osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is alarmingly on the rise in India. There are over a 180 million arthritis patients in India.
It has been observed that women in the age group of 20 years to 40 years suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and women older than 40 years suffer more from knee osteoarthritis. Women are more affected by this disease in India, than men.
The current lifestyle, hectic work patterns, and unhealthy diet are the reasons the doctors cite as the reasons behind this rise in the number of cases of arthritis in India.
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