Arthritis: All you need to know

Arthritis: All you need to know


That pains on your joints, knees, pain, stiffness or even swelling may not be far from Arthritis. Arthritis is very common but can be prevented. Actually, “arthritis” is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.

It is common to people of all ages, sexes and races; and the leading cause of disability in some countries such as America. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.


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Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years, but may progress or get worse over time.

Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints; but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.



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There are different types of arthritis:


Degenerative Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. When the cartilage – the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones – wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness.

Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age and previous injury.

Inflammatory Arthritis

A healthy immune system is protective. It generates internal inflammation to get rid of infection and prevent disease. But the immune system can go awry, mistakenly attacking the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion and may damage internal organs, eyes and other parts of the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are examples of inflammatory arthritis. Researchers believe that a combination of genetics and environmental factors can trigger autoimmunity.

Smoking is an example of an environmental risk factor that can trigger rheumatoid arthritis in people with certain genes.

Infectious Arthritis

A bacterium, virus or fungus can enter the joint and trigger inflammation. Examples of organisms that can infect joints are food poisoning or contamination, chlamydia and gonorrhea (sexually transmitted diseases); and hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection, often through shared needles or transfusions).

In many cases, timely treatment with antibiotics may clear the joint infection, but sometimes the arthritis becomes chronic.



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Metabolic Arthritis

Uric acid is formed as the body breaks down purines, a substance found in human cells and in many foods. Some people have high levels of uric acid; because they naturally produce more than is needed or the body can’t get rid of the uric acid quickly enough.

In some people the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint; resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, or a gout attack. Gout can come and go in episodes or, if uric acid levels aren’t reduced, it can become chronic, causing ongoing pain and disability.


Diagnosing Arthritis


Arthritis diagnosis often begins with a primary care physician, who performs a physical exam and may do blood tests and imaging scans to help determine the type of arthritis.

An arthritis specialist, or rheumatologist, should be involved if the diagnosis is uncertain or if the arthritis may be inflammatory. Rheumatologists typically manage ongoing treatment for inflammatory arthritis; gout and other complicated cases.

Orthopaedic surgeons do joint surgery, including joint replacements. When it affects other body systems or parts; other specialists, such as ophthalmologists, dermatologists or dentists, may also be included in the health care team.






Possible prevention of arthritis


There are many things that can be done to preserve joint function; mobility and quality of life. Learning about the disease and treatment options; making time for physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are essential.


Eat fish

Certain fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids; a healthy polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3s have a number of health benefits, and they can reduce inflammation in the body.


Control your weight

Your knees have to support your body weight. Being overweight or obese can take a real toll on them. If you’re just 10 pounds overweight; the force on your knee as you take each step increases by 30 to 60 pounds, according to Johns Hopkins.

Overweight women are almost four times more likely to get knee osteoarthritis; than women of a healthy weight. Diet and exercise can help bring your weight into a healthier range.



Exercise not only takes the stress of excess weight off your joints; but also strengthens the muscles around the joints. This stabilizes them and can protect them from added wear and tear.

To maximize the benefits of your exercise program, alternate aerobic activities; such as walking or swimming with strengthening exercises. Also, add in some stretching to maintain your flexibility and range of motion.


Avoid injury

Over time, your joints can start to wear out. But when you injure your joints; for example, while playing sports or due to an accident you can damage the cartilage and cause it to wear out more quickly.

To avoid injury, always use the proper safety equipment while playing sports; and learn the correct exercise techniques.


Protect your joints

Using the right techniques when sitting, working; and lifting can help protect joints from everyday strains. For example, lift with your knees and hips; not your back, when picking up objects.

Carry items close to your body so you don’t put too much strain on your wrists. If you have to sit for long periods of time at work; make sure that your back, legs, and arms are well supported.


See your doctor

If you do start to develop arthritis, see your doctor or a rheumatologist. The damage is usually progressive; meaning the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more destruction can occur to the joint.

Your doctor may be able to suggest treatments or lifestyle interventions that can slow the progress of your arthritis; and preserve your mobility.


Source: Arthritis Foundation

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