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What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a condition of joint inflammation. A joint is a place where two bones meet in order to enable movement in that part of the body (i.e. Elbows, knees, and knuckles) .There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis being the two most common forms of arthritis. Some forms of arthritis are speculated to be hereditary, however aside from gouty arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (arthritis of the spine) most types of arthritis are not inherited.
Common types of Arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis - the misdirected immune system attacks the lining of the joints. Joints can become deformed as a result of severe damage. Inflammation can also have an effect on the internal organs such as the heart, eyes and lungs.
- Osteoarthritis - (also called degenerative arthritis); involves the destruction of the cushioning cartilage of the joints, usually feet, knees, hips, hands, and the spine. Stiffness usually occurs around the joints which were damaged.
- Gout - causes severe attacks on joints, usually in the big toe.
- Ankylosing spondylitis; inflammation of the spine that can cause the fusing of vertebrae which results in an inflexible spine.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus - the inflammation of the joints, skin, and muscles. In some cases the internal organs also become inflamed.
- Psoriatic Arthritis - joint and bones become inflamed. This affects up to 5% of the people inflicted with psoriasis
- Juvenile Arthritis - arthritis which occurs in children
Causes of Arthritis
Arthritis can be caused by a number of reasons:
- Age - osteoarthritis is most commonly found in older people. Cartilage tends to become brittle and irreparable with age, thus increasing the risk of getting arthritis.
- Body mass - excess load on the joint can contribute to joint damage causing arthritis. The knees and hips are most affected by excess body mass.
- Prior injury - prior injury can destruct the normal surface of the joint. Any injury causing bone to tear into the cartilage can cause arthritis.
- Repeated stress on certain joints activities (such as contact sports and ballet) and occupations which require an individual to lift heavy objects or use certain joints repeatedly can result in joint damage and cause arthritis.
- Infections - a joint infected by bacteria or a virus can cause a person to develop arthritis in that joint.
- Illness - attacks of gout or other medical ailments can cause arthritis.
- An autoimmune disease - this is when the immune system attacks a part of the body thinking it is foreign.
- Hereditary factors - certain types of arthritis are inherited.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Differing types of arthritis have their own set of symptoms. General symptoms of arthritis include:
- Inflammation of the joints (sometimes accompanied with tenderness)
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Limited function of the joints
- Swelling of the glands
- Joint warmth and redness
- Weight loss
- Abnormal function of organs (heart, kidney, and lungs)
In osteoarthritis, joint pain intensifies over time and can lead to disability. Certain activities and exercises can trigger joint pain. In the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, and weakness are common. People usually experience stiffness throughout the whole body and muscle aches in the morning within the early phases of rheumatoid arthritis. Patients inflicted with gout encounter intense painful attacks between long periods of no symptoms. During these attacks, muscles and tendons around the joint can become heated, red and inflamed.
Treatment of Arthritis
Treatments usually focus on abolishing the cause of the arthritis however, since there are no cures for most types of arthritis, all treatments focus on reducing the severity of arthritis, slowing the progression of the disease, thus increasing the quality of life and independence of the patient. A patient is given treatment according to the type of arthritis they suffer from. The most common forms of treatment include:
- Special diets
- Additional therapies such as, wearing splints, the use of cold-packs, and paraffin wax baths.
Medications used to treat arthritis include:
The use of corticosteroids (methylprednisolene, prednisone) are recommended for the control of inflammation.
Some of the drugs listed here are available without a prescription; however it is important to talk to your doctor before taking any medication especially when selecting medication for long term use.