Arthritis: Symptoms, cost and Treatment
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is often misconstrued by most people to be a disease, which makes the bodily joints stiff and painful. in other words, the areas where two or more bones meet in the body. However, it is not a single disease ; it is an informal way of referrig to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis,
Types of Arthritis
There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis. The most common ones are:
- Osteoarthritis: also known as a degenerative joint disease, occurs when the cartilage between the bones begins to wear off, causing pain and stiffness in the joints.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: is a painful autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the joints causing inflammation in the tissue lining the insides of the joints.
- Gout: one of the most painful forms of arthritis, it occurs when there is too much uric acid in the body resulting in the formation of uric acid crystal deposits in joints
- Ankylosing spondylitis: is a form of arthritis that affects the spine. It can cause the vertebrae to fuse together causing pain and stiffness from the neck to the lower back.
- Juvenile arthritis: is a painful autoimmune disease which occurs in children younger than 16 years. The immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the joints causing inflammation in the tissue lining the insides of the joints.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus): is a disease in which the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the body. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
- Scleroderma: is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body produces too much collagen causing the skin and connective tissue to harden.
- Psoriatic arthritis: is a form of arthritis that causes inflammation of skin and joints. It occurs to people who have psoriasis, which is a skin disease related to the immune system.
- Polymyalgia Rheumatica: is a form of arthritis that causes muscle pain and stiffness, especially in the shoulders.
How does arthritis occur?
Some forms of arthritis, such as Osteoarthritis, occur when the cartilage between the bones begin to wear down. Cartilage is the connective, strong and fibrous tissue between the joints, which stimulates the smooth movement of the body, and helps in absorbing shocks while performing activities such as walking or running. A reduction of this tissue makes the joints stiff and painful. Some other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Scleroderma, and Juvenile arthritis occur when the immune system of the body malfunctions by attacking the healthy tissue in the body. The cause for this is unknown. Another form of arthritis, known as gout. occurs due to abnormal metabolism.
Who is prone to arthritis?
You might be prone to arthritis if :
- you have a family history of arthritis
- you have suffered frequent joint injuries
- suffer from frequent infections
- suffer from irregular metabolism
- suffer from obesity
- you are a woman (women tend to suffer from arthritis more than men)
What are the symptoms of arthritis? How is arthritis diagnosed?
People who suffer from arthritis usually complain of:
- joint stiffness (especially in the morning)
- skin rash
- mild fever
- joint swelling
- joint deformity
- joint pain ( especially in the morning)
In the case of Rheumatoid arthritis(RA), you may feel tired or experience a loss of appetite due to the inflammation the immune system?s activity causes. You may also become anemic ? meaning your red blood cell count decreases ? or have a slight fever. Severe RA can cause joint deformity if left untreated.
To diagnose arthritis, the doctor performs a physical exam to check for fluid around the joints, warmer red joints, and limited range of motion in the joints and especially checks for painful swollen joints, stiffness, and loss of motion. If you?re experiencing severe symptoms, you may choose to schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist first. This may lead to a faster diagnosis and treatment. Blood tests are done and X-rays are taken to determine the type of arthritis affecting you.
What are the complications of arthritis?
Arthritis can almost cripple day-to-day life. Unless treated effectively, any form of this disease has a long-term effect. The most common complications that you may face as a result of this disease are:
- joint stiffness, causing you pain and restricting your bodily movements - inflammation (if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis) in different parts of your body, including lungs, heart, eyes, and blood vessels
- heart diseases that can occur from any form of inflammatory arthritis - bleeding inside the joints
- inflammation, swelling of and pain in joints
- rupture of ligaments around the joint
- carpel tunnel syndrome could affect you if you have rheumatoid arthritis - inflammation in different parts of the body such as eyes, heart, lungs, and blood vessels if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation of blood vessels can also cause cardiovascular diseases.
What is the treatment for arthritis?
Currently there is no treatment which can completely cure arthritis, however, the given treatment is to reduce the amount of pain you?re experiencing and prevent additional damage to the joints. You?ll learn what works best for you in terms of controlling pain. Some people find heating pads and ice packs to be soothing. Others use mobility assistance devices, like canes or walkers, to help take pressure off sore joints. Your doctor may prescribe medications to control the arthritis pain or to bring down the inflammation and swelling. Steroids are often prescribed to treat inflammatory arthritis. Steroids can be taken in tablet form, and can also be injected into the joints. The doctor can also advise you to undergo different forms of therapy such as:
- Hydrotherapy: wherein you will be taught to exercise in a warm pool which will relax your muscles and joints.
- Physiotherapy: which consists of following an exercise regimen tailored to suit your specific needs. It can also include pain alleviating treatments such as ice-packs, heat-packs and massage.
- Occupational Therapy: which consists of enabling people to manage their daily activities efficiently by using specialised aids and tools. Based on the seriousness of your condition the doctor may also advise you to opt for Joint Surgery. If your joint('s) ( hip, knee, shoulder, and elbows) have been damaged beyond repair, you will benefit greatly from the joint replacement surgery.
Regular exercising for around 20 mins can not only prevent arthritis but also help to ease the pain of arthritis. Exercise helps in keeping the blood flow smooth, which provides nutrition to the cartilage. Exercising also helps in weight loss which in turn alleviates the symptoms of arthritis. Obesity, or even putting on some extra weight puts pressure on the joints. Therefore, overweight people are at an extra risk of arthritis. Exercise makes the muscles stronger and bigger. The joints in the human body are surrounded by muscles. Therefore, when they grow stronger and bigger the joints are well protected. Once the muscles are stronger they take up the pressure instead of the joints taking up the pressure. Swimming is a very good exercise for people with arthritis as it does not put pressure on the joints.