Arthritis is a common disorder which means inflammation of one or more bone joints. The bone joints facilitate the movement of the various parts of the body which are connected via them. Thus arthritis essentially hampers the smooth movement or mobility of the patient’s body parts which is accompanied by joint pain.
There are over 100 different forms of arthritis of which the most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.
It is estimated that arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the USA. Severe conditions of arthritis affects the patient mobility and the patient might become home bound. The disease may also lead to other health issues such as obesity, high cholesterol and other heart diseases which are mainly the fallout of the immobility of the individual affected with it.
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Causes of Arthritis
Arthritis generally results in from a breakdown or damaging of the joint cartilage. Cartilage is the firm but flexible connective tissue found in the articulating surface of the bone joints. The function of cartilage is to protect the joint and also act as a shock absorber when pressure is placed on the joint e.g. when we walk or run. Due to damaging of these tissues the amount of the tissues that is needed to protect the joint from shock becomes inadequate as a result of which the bones rub against each other causing inflammation and swelling and pain.
Joint inflammation or arthritis may be caused by the following factors:
- Presence of an auto immune disease, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the healthy cartilage issues.
- General wear and tear of joints due to aging or lack of essential nutrition to keep bones healthy.
- Bone fractures, due to some accident for example.
- Bacterial or viral infection in the joints.
- Metabolic abnormalities(such as gout or pseudo gout)
If the underlying cause can be treated successfully, the joint inflammation is also cured. Otherwise, it may lead to chronic arthritis.
Types of Arthritis
There are over 100 different forms of arthritis, listed below are the primary types, the most common ones are described in brief:
- This is the most common form of arthritis that affects both the small and the large joints. Osteoarthritis can occur as a result of normal wear and tear of joints due to aging and also may occur due to injury or trauma. It causes the cartilage to get damaged resulting in friction between and erosion of the opposing bones of the joint. It typically affects the weight bearing joints of the body like the back, spine and pelvis. This type of arthritis mostly affects the people who have reached an elderly age. This condition cannot be cured but preventive measures such as weight management etc should be taken to prevent the situation from worsening too soon or stabilizing it for a longer period of time.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the body’s own immune system starts attacking the healthy tissues of the body and damage them. This may also damage the cartilage tissues which may eventually cause the bone joints to erode by the friction in absence of any support system. It affects small joints like the fingers, elbows, wrists etc. This form of arthritis can appear in a person aged more than 20 and doesn’t manifest itself only in the elderly people. This disease like Osteoarthritis has no cure and the medication only attempts to alleviate the pain cause so as the patient can live a decent life.
Lupus and Gout are some other prevalent forms of arthritis.
Symptoms of Arthritis
In all kinds of arthritis, the common symptoms are pain of varied levels, inflammation, swelling, joint stiffness and continuous pain around the joint. Some kinds of arthritis may affect other organs as well with a variety of other symptoms. Listing the common indicators:
- Immobililty, difficulty using limbs or walking.
- Loss of weight.
- Disturbed sleep
- Muscle pain
- Swelling and pain in joints.
Diagnosis of Arthritis and Arthritis Treatment
Joint pain is the most common point of identification of various kinds of arthritis. Pain levels may differ in different forms of disease and may also vary with the time of the day.
Clinical examination by a health professional may also include radiology and blood test depending on the type suspected. Another aspect other than pain is reluctance of the patient to use the affected limb or his/her immobility. History of the disorder is another important factor for diagnosis of arthritis.
There is no cure available currently for either Osteo arthritisor Rheumatoid. The conservative form of treatment includes physical therapies, exercises, lifestyle changes including weight loss etc.
If the physical therapies do not work well with the patient, medication is used depending on the type of diagnosed arthritis. The main drug for the treatment of Osteoarthritis is acetaminophen and for inflammatory arthritis like Rheumatoid, non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen is used.