Arthritis

1 What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a group of 100 different types of conditions characterized by inflammation of joints. Two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis

It is most commonly seen in people above the age of 65, but may also be seen in children and young adults. Severe inflammation of joints may affect the person’s ability to carry out daily tasks. 

arthritis facts

Abnormal metabolism, genetic makeup, infections, injury, and abnormal immune system functioning are all implied in the development of arthritis. 

Treatment strategies focus on improving the quality of life by controlling symptoms like pain. Combination of medications, physical therapy, and patient education helps to alleviate the symptoms.

2 Symptoms

Most common symptoms of arthritis include: 

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness of joints
  • Decreased range of motion for joint/s. 

In most of the people with this condition, the symptoms are the worst in the morning. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may complain of loss of appetite. 

Anemia and joint deformities are also noted as symptoms, particularly if the condition is left untreated. 

3 Causes

There is no single cause for arthritis. The cause of the condition depends on the type of arthritis. Some potential causes of arthritis include injury, abnormal metabolism, genetic makeup, infections, and immune system dysfunction. 

Different types of arthritis are caused by different combinations of the factors. Some forms of arthritis do not have any specific reason and are often unpredictable. Wear and tear of the cartilage tissue in joints, caused by age, injury, or infection, result in osteoarthritis

Cartilage tissue is reduced so much that the bone grinds directly into the other bone causing damage to the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by abnormal functioning of the immune system that attacks the healthy tissues in the lining of joints. 

This results in inflammation and swelling of the lining of the joints, called synovial membrane. As the condition progresses, cartilage and bone tissue in the joint is damaged. Elevated levels of uric acid result in gout, a type of arthritis. 

Major risk factors of arthritis include: 

  • Family history – individuals with a family history of arthritis are more prone to develop this condition when compared to others. 
  • Age – it is more commonly seen in people who are above 65 years.
  • Gender – women are more susceptible to develop arthritis when compared to men.
  • Injury – history of joint injury increases the risk of arthritis. 
  • Obesity – excess body weight applies strain on the joints like knees and hips, and increases the risk of developing arthritis. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of Arthritis is done during physical examination, which reveals swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected joints. Doctor may also assess the range of motion of the joint. Other tests help to differentiate the types of arthritis. 

Analysis of blood and joint fluids also help to identify the type of arthritis. Imaging techniques help to analyze the problems that result in a particular symptoms.

 X-rays are recommended to assess the progression of the condition and the extent of cartilage loss in the joint. 

CT scan and MRI provide a detailed visual of the soft tissues in and around the affected joint. 

Ultrasound helps to visualize the cartilage, fluid, and other structures in the joint. It is also used in fluid aspirations and injections.

5 Treatment

Improving the range of function of joint is the focus of treatment for Arthritis. It also helps to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis. A combination of different treatments is recommended to treat the symptoms of this condition. 

Some of the commonly used medications include: 

  • Analgesics are prescribed to reduce pain. Acetaminophen, tramadol, and narcotics are the commonly used analgesics. 
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) provide relief from pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are over-the-counter NSAIDs. They are available in the form of tablets, creams and gels. 
  • Counterirritants inhibit the pain signals from the joints and reduce the symptom. These medications are available in the form of ointment to be applied on the joint.
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) block abnormal immune function in which the system attacks healthy tissues. 

Methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine are common DMARDs. Biologic response modifiers are medications that target the proteins involved in the abnormal immune response. 

  • Corticosteroids suppress the immune system and control symptoms like pain and inflammation. These are available in oral form or as injections. 

Physical therapy involves a number of exercises to improve the functioning of joints. It also improves the flexibility and strength of the affected joint. Surgery is suggested when the patient does not respond to other conventional treatment methods. 

In joint repair surgery, the affected joint is realigned and smoothened to reduce pain. This method improves the range of motion of the joint. 

In more serious conditions, the damaged joint is replaced by an artificial one. In smaller joints like fingers, ankle, and wrist, the ends of the two bones are locked which later heal to form a single unit. 

6 Prevention

There is no sure way to prevent arthritis. Measures help to reduce the risk or delay the development of the condition. 

Having a healthy diet, maintaining optimum body weight, and quitting smoking help to prevent some types of arthritis. 

Avoiding sports injuries by using appropriate sports equipment and proper training is also important in reducing the risk of the condition.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

The type of homeopathic remedy suggested depends on the type of arthritis. 

Some common homeopathic medications include: 

  • bryonia alba
  • ledum pal
  • rhus tox
  • colchium
  • kalmia lot
  • guaiacum
  • calcaria carb
  • benzoic acid
  • hypericum

Acupuncture is a promising alternative remedy for reducing pain. Yoga and tai chi helps to improve flexibility and strength of the affected joint. 

Massage of the affected region improves blood flow and relieves pain.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with Arthritis.

Maintaining a healthy body weight, having anti-inflammatory diet, and regular exercise are important self-management steps to manage the symptoms of arthritis. 

Swimming and water aerobics are suggested to improve the functioning of joints. Using devices like canes and walkers help to improve the ability to carry on with daily work.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several complications associated with Arthritis.

Severe symptoms of arthritis affect the ability to carry on with daily routine. Joint deformity is also a complication of arthritis.

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