Arthritis is very common but is not well understood. Actually, “Arthritis” is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or disease. It’s the leading cause of disability in America. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis.
Some types of arthritis run in families, so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder. People who have injured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint. Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis while men are more likely to have gout. The risk of many types of arthritis-including osteoarthritis (degenerative), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout increases with age.
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. The symptoms can be constant or they may come and go. They can range from mild to severe. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, your signs and symptoms may include:
o one or more joints that are swollen or stiff
o joints that look red or feel warm to the touch
o trouble moving
o problems doing everyday tasks
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage (the cushions on the ends of bones) to wear away. Enough damage can result in bone grinding directly on bone, which causes pain and restricted movement. This wear and tear can occur over many years or it can be hastened by a joint injury or infection.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease. There is no cure, but treatments are available to manage symptoms. Long-term management of the disease will include several factors:
o managing symptoms, such as pain, stiffness and swelling
o improving joint mobility and flexibility
o maintaining a healthy weight
o getting enough exercise
o physical and/or occupational therapy
o assistive devices
o joint replacement surgery
In Rheumatoid Arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, a tough membrane that encloses all the joint parts. This lining, known as the synovial membrane, becomes inflamed and swollen. The disease can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.
RA affects joints on both sides of the body, such as both hands, both wrists or both knees.
The warning signs of RA are: joint pain and swelling, stiffness, especially in the morning or after you sit for a long time, and fatigue. RA affects everyone differently. For some, joint symptoms develop gradually over several years, in others, it comes on quickly.
The ultimate goal is to stop it and achieve remission. This is accomplished by:
o stopping inflammation
o relieving symptoms
o preventing joint and organ damage
o improving physical function and over-all well being
o reducing long-term complications
Surgery for RA may never be needed, but it can be an important option for people with permanent damage that limits daily function, mobility and independence. Joint replacement surgery can relieve pain and restore function in joints badly damaged by RA.
Gout is another form of arthritis that can be very painful. Uric acid buildup in the body causes needle-like crystal deposits to form in your joints. A lot of people see the first symptoms of gout in their big toe, which can get swollen, red and warm. Foods that are high in a substance called purines can raise the uric acid in the blood. Purines are found in all foods that have protein such as organ meats, salmon, sardines and spinach. Other possible flare triggers are: beer and alcohol, some medications, dehydration, fructose sweetened beverages and medical stress. It can be treated with medication and self-management.
Pseudogout is a form of arthritis that causes pain, stiffness, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling in some joints. It commonly affects the knee, or wrist. It results from the abnormal formation of calcium crystals in the cartilage, which is later followed by the release of crystals into the joint fluid. The cause is unknown.
The symptoms mimic those of osteoarthritis and RA. Symptoms are often relieved within 24 hours after treatment has begun; left untreated symptoms may last 5-12 days.
The type of treatment prescribed will depend on many factors but usually anti-inflammatory pain killers are prescribed as well as steroids and colchicine (a medication for gout).
Don’t ignore joint pain. In some cases, it can cause damage that can’t be reversed.
For more information go to: www.mayoclinic.org, www.arthritis.org or www.webmd.com