What is Arthritis? Know the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is quite a common term that we often hear and discuss. But unfortunately, it’s not a term that is well understood, especially by the common people. Just take a minute and think what do you know about arthritis? Yes, it’s related to the joints. But, do you know this single term refers to more than 100 different types of joint pain and joint diseases?
Even though it’s a commonly used term, you need to understand that arthritis is just an informal way of citing joint pain and joint diseases. Currently, over fifty million adults and another 300,000 children are suffering from some type of arthritis in the U.S. This statistics makes it important for us to know what it is. In the following article, let’s try to understand this common medical condition.
Defining the Term Arthritis:
As most of you should be aware, the term “arthritis” refers to a joint disorder that is characterized by inflammation. As you all know, a joint is an area where two bones meet whose function is to help move the parts connected by these bones. Literally, arthritis indicates inflammation of the joint(s).
Most often, arthritis will be accompanied by joint pain, which is referred to as “arthralgia”. When your arthritis involves four or more joints, it is called “polyarthritis”. On the other hand, when it involves a single joint, it is called “monoarthritis”, whereas, if it involves two or three joints, it is called “oligoarthritis”.
When it comes to the types of arthritis, there are so many types and the number of types keeps increasing. Currently, there are over 100 types identified with the most common one being osteoarthritis.
Arthritis can affect individuals of all ages and sexes, and it is the major cause of disability in the U.S. However, this condition is more prevalent among adults aged 65 years and above.
What are the Probable Causes of Arthritis?
To put it simply, the cause of arthritis in a person will depend on the type of arthritis he/she has contracted. Let’s take a look at the probable causes of some forms of arthritis here:
Cartilage is a rigid but flexible connective tissue that is present in the joints. It acts by protecting the joints by absorbing all the pressure and/or shock that is created while moving or putting stress on them. When there is a reduction in the amount of this tissue, some forms of arthritis can be caused.
Osteoarthritis, one of the most common forms, is known to be caused by normal wear and tear. The natural breakdown of your cartilage tissue can be exacerbated by an infection or injury. The risks of contracting osteoarthritis will increase if you have a familial history.
Rheumatoid arthritis, which is another common form, is an autoimmune condition. It means that your body’s immune system will act against your own tissues because of which the synovium can be affected. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the synovium that will destroy the joints. Eventually, it can destroy both bones, as well as the cartilage inside the joints. Although the actual cause of this autoimmune response is not known, researchers have found some genetic markers that increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
As we sum up the probable causes of arthritis, we will end up with the following list:
- Metabolic abnormalities
- Hereditary factors
- Direct/indirect effects of infections
- Autoimmune response
So, what could be the risk factors of arthritis?
For most forms of arthritis, the genes that are inherited from your ancestors are known the major risk factors. In the case of trauma IQ-related arthritis, the major risk factors are the injuries from specific activities.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis?
In most cases, signs and symptoms of arthritis will include:
- Limited function of your joints
- Joint stiffness
- Joint redness
- Joint tenderness
- Loss of cartilage
- Limitation of movement
- Joint damage
- Bone growth
- Loss of hand grip
- Reduced grip strength
As arthritis is classified as a rheumatic disease, it can cause symptoms that affect various other parts of the body that don’t involve your joints directly. Those include:
- Gland swelling
- Loss of weight
- Feeling unwell
- Symptoms of abnormalities
What’s in the Treatment of Arthritis?
The treatment for arthritis will largely depend on the type of arthritis you have contracted. Most often, the primary objective of the treatment is to decrease the amount of pain and prevent further damage to the joints. While some people will find using heating pads and ice packs work best for them, others will find it comfortable using assisted devices like adaptive utensils, canes, walkers, reachers, and so on, to help take pressure off your sore joints.
In addition to these objectives, enhancing your joint function is also critical. Your doctor will prescribe a combination of treatments to get the best results.
Several different types of medications will help treat arthritis. They include:
- Analgesics: Hydrocodone or acetaminophen for pain management.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Ibuprofen and salicylates for pain control and inflammation.
- Menthol or capsaicin creams for blocking the pain signals from the joints.
- Immunosuppressants: Prednisone or cortisone to reduce inflammation.
- Corticosteroids or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs for immune suppression.
A surgery can help replace your joint with a synthetic one. These types of surgeries are commonly performed to replace hips and knees. In some cases, if the arthritis is so severe in your fingers and wrists, a joint fusion may be performed. In this, the ends of the bones will be locked together until they become one and heal.
This involves exercises to help strengthen your muscles surrounding the affected joint.
Living with Arthritis:
- Eat a healthy diet: Choose a diet that is rich in antioxidants. Try to include more of inflammation-reducing foods. Avoid fried foods, dairies, high intake of meat, and processed foods.
- Exercise regularly: Swimming is good. In addition, staying active is crucial. But, don’t overexert yourself.
There is no cure for arthritis. However, the right treatment will greatly reduce the symptoms. In addition, the above-mentioned lifestyle changes can help manage the condition in a better way.