What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is very common disease but it is not well understood. Actually, “arthritis” is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to the joint pain or joint disease.
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and its related conditions. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have the arthritis.
It is most common among the women and occurs more frequently as people get older. Common arthritis joint symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness and decreased range of the motion in joints.
Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years, but may progress or get worse over the time.
Severe arthritis can result in the chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb the stairs.
This decease can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often damage can only be seen on X-ray.
What Are The Different Types of Arthritis?
There are different types of arthritis —
1. Degenerative Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is most common type of arthritis.
When the cartilage – the slick, cushioning surface on ends of bones – wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness.
Over time, joints can lose the strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age and the previous injury.
When joint symptoms of osteoarthritis are mild or moderate, they can be managed by —
- Balancing the activity with rest
- Using hot and cold therapies
- Regular physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Strengthening muscles around the joint for added support
- Using assistive devices
- Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicines
- Avoiding excessive repetitive movements
If joint symptoms are severe, causing limited mobility and affecting quality of the life, some of the above management strategies may be helpful, but the joint replacement may be necessary.
Osteoarthritis can prevented by staying active, avoiding injury, maintaining a healthy weight and repetitive movements.
2. Inflammatory Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are examples of the inflammatory arthritis.
A healthy immune system is protective. It generates internal inflammation to get rid of infection and prevent the disease.
But, the immune system can go awry, mistakenly attacking the joints with the uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing the joint erosion and may damage the eyes, internal organs and other parts of the body.
Researchers believe that a combination of genetics and the environmental factors can trigger autoimmunity.
Smoking is an example of an environmental risk factor that can trigger the rheumatoid arthritis in people with the certain genes.
With autoimmune and inflammatory types of arthritis, early diagnosis and the aggressive treatment is critical.
Slowing disease activity can help minimize or even prevent the permanent joint damage.
Remission is the goal and may be achieved by the use of one or more medications known as disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, prevent further joint damage and improve function.
3. Infectious Arthritis
A bacterium, fungus or fungus can enter the joint and trigger the inflammation.
Examples of organisms that can infect the joints are salmonella and shigella (food poisoning or contamination), chlamydia and gonorrhea (sexually transmitted diseases) and hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection, often through shared needles or transfusions).
In many cases, timely treatment with the antibiotics may clear joint infection, but sometimes arthritis becomes chronic.
4. Metabolic Arthritis
Uric acid is formed as the body breaks down purines, a substance found in the human cells and in many foods.
Some people have high levels of uric acid because they naturally produce more than is needed or body can’t get rid of the uric acid quickly enough.
In some people the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pains, or a gout attack.
Gout can come and go in episodes or, if uric acid levels aren’t reduced, it can become the chronic, causing ongoing pain and disability.
5. Diagnosing Arthritis
Arthritis diagnosis often begins with a primary care physician, who performs a physical exam and may do blood tests and the imaging scans that help to determine the type of arthritis.
An arthritis specialist, or rheumatologist, should be involved if diagnosis is uncertain or if arthritis may be inflammatory.
Rheumatologists typically manage ongoing treatment for the inflammatory arthritis, gout and other complicated cases.
Orthopaedic surgeons do joint surgery, including the joint replacements.
When arthritis affects other body systems or parts, other specialists, such as ophthalmologists, dermatologists or dentists, may also be included in health care team.
How Can I Prevent Arthritis?
The fact is, there is no sure way to prevent the arthritis.
But you can help to prevent, that is, reduce the risk, and delay the potential onset of certain types of the arthritis.
If you have healthy joints right now, do all you can now to maintain the mobility and function and avoid the pain and disability associated with the arthritis.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, and have all have risk factors, individual features, behaviors and circumstances that are associated with disease.
There are the risk factors that are not modifiable. That means there is nothing you can do with them.
Being female and having the family history of arthritis are two examples of factors that make people more likely — but not certain — to get some types of the arthritis.
In contrast, some of the risk factors are considered to be modifiable.
They are behaviors and the circumstances that can be changed in order to reduce the risk, delay onset or altogether prevent the arthritis.
Here are just a few examples of the arthritis and related diseases and associated modifiable risk factors —
- Osteoarthritis – Maintain a healthy weight
- Rheumatoid arthritis – Do not smoke
- Gout – Eat a healthful diet, low in alcohol, sugar and purines
In some cases, preventing a prior incident can significantly reduce risk of arthritis.
Avoiding the sports injuries through proper equipment, adequate training and safe play can prevent ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears that may lead to the osteoarthritis in a few years or several decades later.
Presently, because the scientists don’t fully understand causes or the mechanisms behind these diseases, true prevention seems to be impossible.
However, there is real hope that someday some or all types of arthritis and the related conditions can be prevented. The breakthroughs may be closer than they seem.
Many types of arthritis are thought to result from the combination of genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger, such as a virus or toxin. Discovery of trigger for a type of the arthritis may be the key to its prevention, even in someone with genetic risk.
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