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Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What is Arthritis? Meaning, Causes, Symptoms, Types, Diagnosis, Complications and Treatment of Arthritis...

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints which can affect one joint or more joints. There are more than hundred different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatment methods. Two of the most common types of this disease are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The symptoms of arthritis usually develop over time, but they can also appear suddenly. Arthritis is most commonly seen in adults above the age of 65, but it can also occur in children, teens, and younger adults. It is more common in women compared to men and in people who are overweight.

Arthritis is sometimes misconstrued by most people to be a disease, which makes the bodily joints stiff and painful. However, Arthritis is not a single disease. It 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 2 or more bones meet in the body.


Types of Arthritis

There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis. The most common ones are:

Osteoarthritis: 

It is also known as degenerative joint disease, develops when the cartilage between the bones begins to wear off, causing pain and stiffness in the joints.

Read: Full article on Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis:

It is a painful autoimmune disease where the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the joints causing inflammation in the tissue lining the insides of the joints.

Read: Full article on Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gout:

It is one of the most painful forms of arthritis, develops when there is too much uric acid in the body resulting in the formation of uric acid crystal deposits in joints

Read: Full article on Gout 

Ankylosing spondylitis:

It is a form of arthritis which affects the spine. It may cause the vertebrae to fuse together causing pain and stiffness from the neck to the lower back.

Juvenile arthritis:

It is a painful autoimmune disease which develops in children younger than 16 years. The immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the joints leads to inflammation in the tissue lining the insides of the joints.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus):

It is a disease in which the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the body which can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs.

Read: Full article on Lupus

Scleroderma:

It is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body produces a high amount of collagen causing the skin and connective tissue to harden.

Psoriatic arthritis:

It is a form of arthritis which causes inflammation of skin and joints. It develops in people who have psoriasis, which is a skin disease related to the immune system.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica:

It is a form of arthritis which causes muscle pain and stiffness, especially in the shoulders.


How does arthritis occur?

Some forms of arthritis, like Osteoarthritis, occur when the cartilage between the bones begin to wear down.

Cartilage is the connective, strong and fibrous tissue lied between the joints, which stimulates the smooth movement of the body, and helps in absorbing shocks while performing activities like walking or running. A reduction of such tissue makes the joints stiff and painful.

Some other forms of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, Scleroderma, and Juvenile arthritis occur when the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the healthy tissue in the body. The cause for this is unclear.

Another form of arthritis, known as gout, develops due to abnormal metabolism.


What are the symptoms of arthritis? 

People who suffer from arthritis generally complain of:

  • Joint stiffness (especially in the morning)
  • Tiredness
  • Skin rash
  • Joint deformity
  • Mild fever
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint pain ( especially in the morning)
  • Limping

Diagnosis of Arthritis

Your doctor will perform a physical examination to check for fluid around the joints, warm or red joints, and limited range of motion in the joints. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist if needed.

If you’re facing severe symptoms, you may choose to schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist first. This can lead to a faster diagnosis and proper treatment.

Extracting and analyzing inflammation levels in the blood and joint fluids may help the doctor determine what kind of arthritis patient have.

Blood tests that check for specific types of antibodies such as anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide), RF (rheumatoid factor), and ANA (antinuclear antibody) are also the most common diagnostic tests.

Doctors generally use imaging scans like X-ray, MRI, and CT scans to produce an image of your bones and cartilage. This is so they can find out other causes of symptoms, such as bone spurs.


What are the complications of arthritis?

Arthritis can almost disturb day-to-day life. Unless treated properly and effectively, any form of this disease has a long-term effect.

The most common complications that patient may face as a result of this disease can be:

  • Joint stiffness, causing pain and restricting bodily movements
  • Inflammation (if patient suffer from rheumatoid arthritis) in different parts of your body, such as lungs, heart, eyes, and blood vessels
  • Heart diseases which can occur from any form of inflammatory arthritis
  • Bleeding inside the joints
  • Inflammation, swelling with pain in joints
  • Rupture of ligaments around the joint
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome may affect you if you have rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammation in different parts of the body like eyes, heart, lungs, and blood vessels if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Inflammation of blood vessels may also cause cardiovascular diseases.

Who is on higher risk to arthritis?

A person might be prone to arthritis if:

  • Having a family history of arthritis
  • He/she has suffered frequent joint injuries
  • He/she has suffered from frequent infections
  • Suffering from irregular metabolism
  • Suffering from obesity
  • She is a woman (women tend to suffer from arthritis more than men)

What is the treatment for arthritis?

Medical treatments

Currently there is no treatment which can completely cure this disease; however, the right medical interventions can greatly help to reduce the symptoms of the condition.

The main focus of treatment is to decrease the amount of pain you’re experiencing and prevent additional damage to the joints.

Some people find heating pads and ice packs to be soothing while others use mobility assistance devices, Such as canes or walkers, to help take pressure off sore joints.

Your doctor can prescribe medicines to control the arthritis pain or to bring down the inflammation and swelling.

Steroids are commonly prescribed to treat inflammatory arthritis. Steroids can be taken in tablet form as well as can also be injected into the joints.

Medication

A number of various types of medication treat arthritis:

  • Analgesics: Hydrocodone, Acetaminophen are effective for pain management, but don’t help reduce inflammation.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Ibuprofen and salicylates help control pain and inflammation. Salicylates help to thin the blood, so they must be used very cautiously with additional blood thinning medications.
  • Menthol and capsaicin creams block the transmission of pain signals from the joints.
  • Immunosuppressants: Prednisone or Cortisone helps reduce inflammation.

The doctor may also advise you to undergo different forms of therapy like:

  • Hydrotherapy: wherein you will be advised to exercise in a warm pool which will relax the muscles and joints.
  • Physiotherapy: Which consists of following an exercise regimen tailored to suit Patient’s specific needs. It can also include pain alleviating treatments like ice-packs, heat-packs and massage.
  • Occupational Therapy: It consists of enabling people to do their daily activities efficiently by using specialized aids and tools.

Based on the seriousness of the condition, the doctor can also advise you to opt for Joint Surgery.

If your joints, such as hip, shoulder, knee, and elbows have been damaged beyond repair, you will benefit greatly from the joint replacement surgery.

Exercise

Regular exercising for around 20 to 25 minutes can not only prevent arthritis but also help to ease the pain of arthritis.

Exercise can help in keeping the blood flow smooth that provides nutrition to the cartilage.

Exercising also helps in losing the weight which in turn alleviates the symptoms of arthritis. Obesity puts pressure on the joints. Therefore, overweight people are at on higher risk of arthritis.

Exercise makes the muscles bigger and stronger.

Swimming is a very good exercise for people with arthritis because it does not put pressure on the joints.


What lifestyle changes can help people with arthritis?

Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight reduce the risk of developing this disease and can reduce symptoms if you already have it.

Eating a healthy diet is very important for weight loss. Choosing a diet with lots of antioxidants can help reduce inflammation like:

  • Fresh fruits,
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Herbs

Foods to minimize or avoid if you have arthritis are:

  • Fried foods
  • Processed foods
  • Dairy products
  • High intakes of meat.

A gluten-free diet can improve symptoms and disease progression as some research suggests that gluten antibodies can be present in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

At-home exercises you can try include:

  • The head tilt, neck rotation, and a few other exercises to relieve pain in the neck
  • Finger bends and thumb bends to reduce pain in your hands
  • Leg raises, hamstring stretches, and other easy exercises for the treatment of knee arthritis.

You need to Know…

As mentioned above, there’s no exact cure for arthritis, however, the right treatment can greatly reduce your symptoms.

In addition to the treatments, the doctor recommends some lifestyle changes, Exercise and diet which may help you manage your arthritis.

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