Arthritis is a chronic disorder that affects the musculoskeletal system. A person diagnosed with arthritis can have very uncomfortable pain in one or more than one joint in their body. Sometimes, arthritis may cause disability. Arthritis can also be caused by bacterial or viral infections, well-known as infectious arthritis. All types of arthritis affect the joints, tissues around the joints, and other connective tissues in the body.
Types of Arthritis:
To date, a total of around 200 types of arthritis are known. They are further classified under seven major categories:
- Inflammatory Arthritis: Examples include:
- Degenerative or Mechanical Arthritis: This leads to damage in the cartilage. An example of this type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA).
- Metabolic Arthritis: Gout or Gouty arthritis falls under this type.
Connective Tissue Disease:
- Soft Tissue Musculoskeletal Pain: Fibromyalgia and tennis elbow are examples.
- Back Pain: This is due to a ‘slipped disk’, osteoporosis, or spondylosis.
- Infectious Arthritis: Common diseases that cause this type are:-
The symptoms can develop very slowly but sometimes they can get worse in just a few hours. Some types of arthritis can lower the immune response of the body and cause damage to the internal organs. People over 65 years, especially women, are at higher risk for developing arthritis and other conditions that are caused by arthritis.
Major Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis
The causes of each type of arthritis are different and vary greatly. Similarly, the signs and symptoms of arthritis also differ depending upon the type. The signs and symptoms of arthritis may either appear slowly or develop all of a sudden. Since it is a chronic disease, the symptoms may initially arise and later disappear, then later reappear; they may also remain for a longer period of time.
The below-mentioned signs should each be considered an ‘alarming signal’, and prompt immediate consultation with a health care provider:
- Inflammation, swelling, or bulging of the skin around the joint: In certain types of arthritis, the affected area of the joint becomes swollen and becomes red. Moreover, the skin feels warm to the touch.
- Pain: With arthritis, a constant pain in the joints is observed. This pain may either be constrained to a single place or may be experienced in different areas of the body.
- Stiffness in the head and neck: This is one of the most typical symptoms of arthritis. In some forms, stiffness may arise upon waking up in the morning, when having remained in the same posture for a long duration, or after doing physical exercise, whereas in some other forms, the stiffness may be persistent or regular.
- Problem while moving the joint: If an individual faces pain or difficulty when getting up from a chair, or finds moving the joints difficult after sitting for a long period, then this may be an early sign of arthritis or some other joint problem, and should not be neglected.
Disorders like arthritis may cause many other health issues like disability or depression and anxiety. People diagnosed with arthritis can’t do many usual everyday activities because the disorder limits them in their movements. Because of this, the patients also may develop some mental issues. There are many risk factors that help bring about arthritis. The risk factors can be divided into two categories, i.e., modifiable and non-modifiable. Patients can control some of them, but there are risk factors that are not modifiable, such as the following:
- Sex – Women are more likely to be diagnosed with some form of arthritis.
- Age – The risk of arthritis is greater for people over the age of 65.
Patients diagnosed with arthritis say that the disorder changes their lives on a daily basis. Sometimes it hurts and they have difficulty walking, sitting, and sleeping.
Some Useful Advice on Living with a Chronic Disorder like Arthritis:
- Life is not over after the diagnosis. You can control the symptoms and emotions, but never do it alone. Spend quality time with your family and friends. Their support will help you stay stable even if you think that your condition can break you to pieces. Ask your friend or a loved one to join you when you go to treatment or physical therapy. It is good for them to understand living with a chronic disease and for you, to know that you have all their support.
- Do not let emotions control your life, because you are stronger than them. You will have bad days when the pain will be too strong, but that does not mean that your life will be bad every day for the rest of your life.
- Your doctor will prescribe treatment for your condition. If you follow the instructions, you can still live your life to the fullest.
- Subscribe to some online forums and connect with people that have the same issues. You will be each other’s support and you can exchange experiences. This is good because you will know that you have support even on the other side of the world. The people in the forums will fully understand you and the way you feel about your condition.
Living with arthritis means that you may have other health issues. These are the most common comorbidities (having more than one chronic disease at the same time) among people with arthritis:
- Heart and cardiovascular diseases – 24%
- Chronic respiratory problems – 19%
- Diabetes – 16%
- Stroke – 6.8%
A Few Last Words
Sometimes, if the symptoms are very intense, the patient will need to stay at a hospital for various tests and a doctor’s oversight. In some cases, joint replacement needs to be done. Arthritis is a chronic disorder that can change the lives of those afflicted with it and those of people close to them. As already said, though it can't be reiterated enough, it is important for the arthritis sufferer to have physical and emotional support from family and friends. Support and the right therapy can make the arthritis sufferer's life easier and less painful.