Arthritis

Reviewed: April 05, 2013
By eHealthIQ
Arthritis

Definition and Facts

Do you have aching joints? Swollen joints? Arthritis, also known as Joint Inflammation, is a condition in which one or more joints are inflamed. Inflammation is one of the body’s natural ways of reacting to disease or injury, and it causes joint pain, stiffness and swelling that can make moving difficult. More than 70 million Americans suffer from some type of joint pain or arthritis. It affects people of all ages but is most common in older adults.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The most common are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gout Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis:

  • The most common form of arthritis, affecting hips, knees and hands
  • Affects more than 20 million Americans
  • Also known as Degenerative Joint Disease
  • Occurs when the cartilage that covers the end of the bones slowly wears away and is more likely to occur with age
Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Long-lasting disease most commonly affecting hands, knees and wrists
  • Typically affects people between ages 25-55
  • Considered to be an autoimmune disease
  • Begins when the immune system mistakes healthy tissue for a foreign substance and subsequently attacks itself, causing the joint lining to swell

Gout Arthritis:

  • Painful condition causing joint pain most commonly in knees, wrists and the big toe
  • Occurs when body overproduces or cannot get rid of uric acid
  • Most common to occur in postmenopausal women, males and people with high blood pressure

Signs and Symptoms

Key symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, swelling and stiffness, but each particular type of arthritis may yield different symptoms.

If you have any type of arthritis, you may experience:

  • Stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Redness or tenderness around a joint
  • Reduced ability to move

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

  • Chills and fever during normal activities can indicate the gradual onset of Osteoarthritis
  • Joint pain that worsens after exercise or putting weight on it
  • Increase in pain in humid weather
  • Fever during normal activities
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • The disease begins gradually with fatigue, morning stiffness, weakness, muscle aches, loss of appetite
  • Eventually joint pain appears in the same joints on both sides of the body
  • When joint is not used for a period of time, it can become tender, stiff, warm and swollen
  • Additional symptoms may include anemia, paleness, swollen glands, limited range of motion and numbness or tingling

Symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (Rheumatoid Arthritis in children):

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Blotchy rashes on arms/legs

Symptoms of Gout Arthritis

  • Throbbing joint pains, frequently throughout the night
  • Signs of tenderness, warmth and redness around affected joints

Causes and Diagnosis

In general, arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage, which usually protects the joint and allows for smooth movements. When cartilage breaks down, the bones are not protected so they rub together causing inflammation and stiffness.

With so many different types of arthritis, it is important to diagnose properly. There is no exact cause of each type of arthritis, but different types have risk factors that can help you determine if you suffer from a form of arthritis.

General risk factors:

Age. As one gets older, the risk of developing arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, increases.

Gender. Arthritis frequently occurs in women.

Obesity. Being overweight puts extra stress on weight-bearing joints and particularly increases the risk for osteoarthritis.

Work factors. Jobs that require repetitive movements or heavy lifting can stress the joints and/or cause an injury, which can lead to arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis.

To determine whether your symptoms are a result of arthritis or another condition, your doctor will take a detailed medical history. A physical examination will be done to see if fluid is collecting in the joint.Other tests vary based on the suspected type of arthritis. Imaging techniques such as an X-Ray or MRI can show the condition of joints to diagnose osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis has a blood test called Anti0CCP antibody test. To test for gout arthritis, doctors can do a uric acid blood or urine test.

Tests and Treatment Options

There isn’t so much an exact cure for all the different types of arthritis as there are treatments for arthritis. Treatment depends on the particular cause and type of arthritis, which joints are affected and how the arthritis affects daily activities.

Treatment options typically include:

  • Visits with therapists (both physical and occupational) – this helps maintain joint mobility and range of motion
  • Medication – there are lots of drugs that are now used to treat inflammation and pain of arthritis, including aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and dicolfenac
  • Exercise
  • Surgery

Your treatment plan will focus on eliminating the cause of the arthritis, however, treatment generally focuses on reducing your pain and preventing further injury.

Helpful Tips and Home Remedies

It may not be possible to prevent arthritis, but you can take steps to reduce your risk. If arthritis is diagnosed and treated early, you may be able to prevent joint damage.

Helpful tips:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise
  • Reduce stress
  • Get ample rest
  • Sleep 8-10 hours a night
  • Avoid holding one position for too long
  • Avoid placing stress on your affected joints
  • Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals

References

  • http://arthritis.webmd.com
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/arthritis/DS01122
  • http://www.medicinenet.com/arthritis/article.htm
  • http://arthritis.about.com/
  • http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Arthritis

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