Arthritis is inflammation of a joint. Inflammation can also occur in multiple joints. A joint can be simply defined as where two bones meet. Symptoms of arthritis usually develop over some time although a few can show up suddenly. There are over 100 types of arthritis, which have different causes and treatments. Arthritis in some instances can cause deformity if unattended.
What are the Causes of Arthritis?
Arthritis is caused as a result of a breakdown in cartilage. Cartilage protects a joint allowing smooth movement. Cartilage also helps in absorbing shock. A reduction in the amount of cartilage may also cause forms of arthritis. Normal wear and tear also cause the breakdown of cartilage leading to arthritis. When the cartilage breaks down, simple activities like walking become painful because the bones come in contact. Cartilage breakdown also causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness in some cases.
Although the major causes of arthritis are not well documented, certain factors have been ruled out as the most predisposing factors leading to the disease. Some of these factors can be regulated although we can do nothing about the rest. They include:
• Inherited genes
• A person’s lifestyle
• Illness that is either a viral or bacterial infection
• Diseases like SLE or chronic fatigue syndrome
• Body weight
• Work factors
Family history remains one of the single most documented pre-disposing factor of osteoarthritis. Infections or injury to joints can also lead to the breakdown of cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder occurs when your immune system attacks body tissues finally affecting the synovium tissue. The synovium tissue is responsible for producing a fluid that lubricates the joint and cartilage. A patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will always get continued destruction of the affected joint because of friction and pressure. Genes are also one of the major factors that predispose one to rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis can affect people from all age groups although it is most common among adults over the age of 65. Arthritis is also common among people who are overweight. It is also more common to women than men. Due to the many types of arthritis, they have been divided into seven groups for easier clinical classification. They include:
• Inflammatory arthritis
• Mechanical or Degenerative arthritis
• Back pain
• Soft tissue musculoskeletal arthritis
• Connective tissue disease
• Metabolic arthritis
• Infectious arthritis
What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
Most common signs and symptoms of arthritis are known to prevail around the joints depending on the type of arthritis you are suffering from. Common symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness, redness of the skin around the joint and also decreased motion ranges. Another symptom is feeling warm around the joint.
In some cases of arthritis like rheumatoid the symptoms may be a bit different. Patients describe feelings of tiredness, fever and sometimes lack of appetite. These effects are a result of the inflammation caused by the immune system. Patients can also become anemic due to low red blood cell count. If rheumatoid arthritis is unattended to it can become severe even causing joint deformities.
How to Diagnosis Arthritis?
The best diagnosis can be properly offered by a qualified medical doctor. A history of the patient is also important in this task. A physical exam is performed for proper diagnosis. Current and past symptoms of the patient can also provide great insight. Imaging scans are also effective in diagnosing. Equipment like an X-ray, CT scan or MRI provides necessary images that are essential in the diagnosis.
A series of tests can also be done on the patient depending on the type of arthritis. Some of these tests can be performed in almost all major hospitals. They include-
• Anti-CCP antibody
• Rheumatoid factor
• C-reactive protein
• Complete blood count
• ESR or Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
• Bone scan
• Synovial fluid analysis
What is the Treatment for Arthritis?
Treatment of arthritis includes medication that calms the pain as the cartilage heals. It also involves prevention of additional damage to the affected joint. Treatment for arthritis can also be treated using a combination of medication, therapies and patient education.
Other forms of treatment for an arthritis patient include sessions of therapy, anti-inflammatory arthritis creams, using assistive aids, a weight loss program and may be surgery in severe cases. Some surgeries might involve joint replacement although these cases are rare. Treatments that involve therapy include using heat or ice, orthotics, water therapy and massage.
A good diet will also help the joints to reform, however, enough time is crucial for the overall system to heal naturally. Fruits and vegetables should not be left out of any meal for patients. Foods in omega 3 fatty acids are also known to help in the natural healing of arthritis.
Health experts advise patients to avoid staying in the same positions for long periods. Taking naps during the day and enough sleep is also important for reducing flare-ups.
Support and patient education are also fundamental in the treatment of arthritis. Patients are advised to practice management strategies of arthritis among having regular checkups.
How to Prevent the onset of Arthritis?
Prevention of arthritis involves an early diagnosis followed by treatment. A family that has the previous history of arthritis needs to inform their doctor for early advice. However, the lifestyle of a person is important in keeping the person healthy and fit.
Exercise is also a factor in preventing arthritis. Walking, yoga and aerobics are some of the most common exercises performed to lower cases of arthritis. Your doctor can prove to be of use if you need a simple but effective training schedule. Arthritis patients are advised to not strain their joints or perform activities that cause a lot of pain before entire healing.
Long-term outlook for Arthritis
Many people have lived successful lives even with arthritis. The right treatment is an important factor in reducing pain and other related symptoms that cause discomfort. Most forms of arthritis are chronic conditions however a few of these disorders can be completely cured through proper treatment.
A balanced diet is also advised for people who have arthritis. A meal that consists of all the major nutrients will help any person to live life in its fullness. Foods that consist of antioxidants will also help in the reduction of inflammation for arthritis patients.
Health experts have in the past raised awareness about excessive repetitive motions that cause stress on certain joints and muscles. This is also a predisposing factor for arthritis and other related inflammations. We are also advised to avoid activities that can lead to cartilage breakdown like overuse of joints. However, raising awareness and supporting the affected, can always prevent stigma and therefore, keep arthritis at bay.