Arthritis is a very common medical condition often associated with aching bones and commonly found among older adults. In layman’s terms, arthritis is referred to in a very generic context. However, medically, arthritis is a much deeper condition. Technically speaking, arthritis is not a disease but is a condition that relates to another disease of the joints and bones. Arthritis can happen to anybody and is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
Some of the most common symptoms of arthritis include inflammation, sharp pain, stiffness and inability to increase the motion of muscles and joints. For some people, the pain and symptoms are constant while for others the symptoms may come and go. The pain and other symptoms could differ in intensity ranging from mild to severe. It starts gradually and progresses over time, and usually gets worse as one grows older. Severe or chronic arthritis could lead to severe repercussions, making it difficult for one to carry out normal, everyday activities with ease. People suffering from arthritis can find walking and climbing stairs extremely painful. The condition can be seen in an X-ray as the effect of the condition starts to show on the bones and joints. 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 an X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.
What are the various types of Arthritis?
Although arthritis is a generically used term, there are various types of the condition, namely:
This is the most common form of arthritis and is also known as osteoarthritis. This condition occurs when the cartilage, or cushioning surface on the ends of bones, begins to shrink causing the bones to rub against each other thereby causing intense pain, inflammation and stiffness. With time, the joints begin to lose their strength, which could lead to unbearable pain. Some of the main causes associated with this form of arthritis are being overweight, hereditary or family history, age and any form of injury - recent or in the past.
The function of a healthy immune system is to protect the body against invasion of harmful germs and bacteria-causing infections. In this process of protecting the body, the immune system generates some internal inflammation in order to get rid of the infection and prevent disease. However, the immune system sometimes goes against the body and wrongly attacks the joints, causing damage and inflammation to them. Eventually, there can be erosion of the joints and other internal organs including the eyes and other organs of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are types of arthritis that are caused due to such autoimmune disorders. There are various factors that could lead to this form of arthritis including a combination of both genetic and environmental triggers. For instance, smoking in some people is an environmental factor that could cause this form of arthritis.
In this form of arthritis, an early diagnosis followed by appropriate treatment becomes highly crucial. Slowing down the disease can help in minimizing the impact on the joints, thereby reducing the risk of permanent damage.
This form of arthritis occurs when a bacteria, virus or fungi enters the joints and causes a swelling or inflammation to occur. In most cases, antibiotics can help in treating this infection and condition, however, sometimes arthritis can also become severe.
The body produces uric acid by breaking down purines, which are a component found in human cells and some foods. In certain people, uric acid levels are higher than what it should be and their bodies are unable to excrete the excess amounts of uric acid. This uric acid gets built up and forms sharp crystals in the joints which can result in sharp and shooting pains in the joints. In certain cases, it can get severe causing severe disability.
How is Arthritis Diagnosed?
Diagnosing arthritis is not a very difficult process. Firstly to diagnose the disease, the doctor conducts a physical examination along with a few blood tests and scans to confirm the disease. A rheumatologist is normally involved in the diagnosis, who also helps in managing the disease and treating the pain and inflammation.
How can you Effectively Manage Arthritis
Arthritis is a painful condition, however, effective management along with medication is required to improve the quality of life. Arthritis is not about giving up on your everyday activities, but about doing things in moderation so as to avoid any kind of strain on the painful joints.
People form notions about the disease as soon as they are diagnosed with the disease. However, it is not as serious as it is made to sound. Speak to your doctor about the disease, your symptoms and how you can best manage them.
Here are a few self-management techniques that can help you in successfully managing arthritis and its symptoms.
It is important to keep a track of your symptoms, medicines, pain and side effects to manage the condition effectively. Speak to your doctor in case of any discomfort you are experiencing with regards to the medicine you are consuming.
Pain is a part of arthritis but it is important not to let the pain take over your life. Find out from your doctor about the various pain management techniques that you can follow to continue living a quality life.
Arthritis often affects the activity levels of people. However, exercise is one of the best ways to manage the disease and improve your overall health and well-being. Exercise helps in keeping your body flexible and helps in strengthening the muscles and joints of the body.
It is important to know when your body requires rest and when you need to stop exerting your joints. Keep your schedule light and seek help wherever required. Keep yourself active, but not at the cost of over straining yourself.
A balanced diet
A healthy diet is crucial when it comes to managing any form of disease, and arthritis is no exception. A healthy diet with exercise helps in maintaining a healthy body weight, which prevents further strain on the joints and muscles. There are a number of natural foods that help in controlling inflammation due to their rich antioxidant content.
Relax and sleep well
Lack of sleep can often take a toll on the arthritis condition and worsen it. Practice various ways to relax and help yourself sleep better whether it be a massage, warm bath, some light music or whatever technique suits you. Feel free to practice it for a relaxed sleep. Tell your doctor in case you are having great difficulty in sleeping.
Arthritis as a condition can be painful, but it is not impossible to manage. In fact, when one takes good care of oneself, a major difference can be felt on a daily basis. Understanding the condition and following medical advice can go a long way in making life easier with arthritis.