Arthritis is a relatively common chronic medical condition that affects approximately 40 million people in the United States of America. Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints of those afflicted with the long-term condition.
There are many different types of Arthritis that can affect people during their lifetimes. Although Arthritis is often synonymous with elderly people, this is a common misconception – sadly the medical condition can affect people of all ages, including very young children.
Types of Arthritis
Before it’s at all possible to even begin discussing preventative measures regarding Arthritis, it’s important to understand that there are often significant distinctions between the types of Arthritis that can affect people; the two most common types of Arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
In most of the western hemisphere, the most common type of Arthritis affecting the population is Osteoarthritis. The condition often develops in adults from their mid-40’s and onwards – it’s also more likely to present itself in women and people in general who have a family history of Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is most likely to affect the joints in the:
With that being said, Osteoarthritis can still present itself at any age! However, this is often the result of another factor such as serious injury, gout or Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by the way it initially affects only the smooth cartilage lining of your joints. By damaging the smooth cartilage of your joints, the condition starts to make simple movements more difficult than they usually would be by creating pain and stiffness. This process is continuous and as the smoother cartilage is destroyed, the more difficult it becomes for your tendons and ligaments to move easily – this eventually leads to swelling around your joints and the formation of bony spurs that are known as osteophytes.
The longer this process remains untreated, the more damage it can inevitably do to the human skeleton; losing too much cartilage can lead to bones rubbing against each other, which in turn can force bones out of position and affect the posture and movement of an afflicted person further.
Roughly 1.3 million United States’ citizens currently suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis. The condition tends to present itself when people are aged between 40 and 50 years old; if you’re a woman you are also 3 times more likely to develop symptoms of the condition than a man.
Rheumatoid Arthritis takes a different path to a lot of other Arthritic conditions, this is because Rheumatoid Arthritis is characterized by the involvement of the immune system – the immune system targets joints in the body which leads to pain and swelling. Initially the immune system targets the outer covering of the joint, but as this targeting spreads across the joint it can warp it! This eventually causes the bone and cartilage of the affected joint to break down. As Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto-immune condition, it can begin to affect other organs and tissues in the body.
How to Prevent the Onset of Arthritis
Although Arthritis has been around for thousands of years, medical professionals are still discovering new and exciting things about the condition. Nevertheless, there still remains no magic cure for the medical condition. That’s why one of the most frequently asked questions regarding Arthritis is usually ‘How do I prevent the onset of Arthritis?’
Thankfully a wide-range of risk factors have been identified over the last 50 years. However, many of these are sadly non-modifiable risk factors such as genetics – there’s very little you can do to reduce the increased risk of the condition you have if you’re either a woman or have a family history of the illness.
With that being said, there are thankfully a range of risk factors that are highly modifiable. Lifestyle choices can be made in order to reduce the risk and onset of the condition, these include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Participating in exercise (ensuring you warm-up, warm-down and don’t over-do it)
- Avoid smoking
- Eat a healthy diet that’s low in processed foods, sugars and saturated fats
In regards to exercise, it’s important that you maintain fluidity in your joints and strength in your muscles to help support your skeleton. Nevertheless, it’s equally important that you ensure when you train that you are training properly. It’s been identified by medical experts that sports injuries and improper warm up techniques can play a part in the development of osteoarthritis later in life.
Sadly, there is still plenty that researchers and medical experts don’t know about the condition and its causes. With that being said, the medical community has thankfully reached some consensus on the matter – agreeing that it’s often a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors that cause most types of Arthritis to present themselves. There is therefore hope in the treatment of Arthritis, as identifying environmental factors that cause the onset of the condition will allow us to implement lifestyle changes to avoid these environmental factors.
Although there are currently no known cures for Arthritis, there are plenty of effective treatment options – particularly for Osteoarthritis. Treatments for Osteoarthritis, the most common form of Arthritis, include:
- Lifestyle Changes
- Anti-inflammatory Medications
- Topical Arthritis Creams
- Surgical Procedures