Symptoms, risk factors, types, diagnosis, and traitment of arthritis, a serious health problem affecting millions of people each year
Arthritis literally means joint inflammation. It is not a single disease, but rather a single term used to encompass over 100 different diseases and conditions.
Arthritis is indiscriminate and affects people of all races and ages.
Facts about Arthritis
leading cause of disability in many people
expected to become more prevalent as "baby boomers" age
treatable and manageable, but there is no cure
thought to be impacted to some degree by genetics and environmental triggers
Symptoms Associated with Arthritis
constant or recurring pain or tenderness in a joint
swelling in one or more joints
stiffness around the joints that lasts for at least one hour in the early morning
redness or warmth around a joint
reduced joint mobility
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, consult your doctor or specialist. A doctor who chooses to specialise in arthritis and related illness and disease is called a Rhumatologist.
Common Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis, (also known as degenerative arthritis)
Osteoarthritis is the most common or prevalent type of arthritis and is characterized by the deterioration of cartilage covering the ends of bones in a joint.
This is an autoimmune, inflammatory arthritis characterized by synovitis, (inflammation of joint lining). It occurs two to three times more often in women than in men.
A.S. as it is often called, primarily, but not exclusively, affects the spine. It may also involve the hips, shoulders, and knees. It is more common in men than in women.
Gout affects more men than women and is characterized by uric acid crystals in the joint. This disease causes inflammation, swelling, and pain in the affected joint, which is often the big toe.
Scleroderma, (also known as systemic sclerosis)
This is considered a connective tissue disease and is characterized by thickening and hardening of the skin. It is more common in women than in men.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
This is the most common form of arthritis in childhood and may affect various parts of the body.
The various types of arthritis are also referred to musculoskeletal conditions and rheumatic diseases and are the leading cause of disability.
Diagnosis of Arthritis
Controlling arthritis symptoms and preventing further joint damage is best achieved with early diagnosis and treatment. Laboratory tests specifically ordered to help diagnose arthritis include:
joint fluid examination
anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA)
complete blood count (CBC)
erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Sed Rate)
hematocrit (Ht or HCT) or packed cell volume (PCV)
synovial fluidn examination
white blood count (WBC)
Imaging procedures are used to view the condition of a specific joint while X-rays show images of bones, but not cartilage, muscles and ligaments.
Computerised Axial Tomography (CAT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) show the whole joint including cartilage, muscles and ligaments, whereas Arthroscopic procedures may allow the doctor to view the extent of joint damage.
Treatment of Arthritis
Arthritis is a chronic disease, but it is usually manageable and medication is commonly given to treat arthritis. The following types of drugs are prescribed to treat this illness:
NSAIDs, (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
DMARDSs, (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs)
corticosteroids - these suppress the immune system
BRMs, (biologic response modifiers)
analgesics, (pain relievers)
hyaluronic acid products, (these lubricate the knee joint)
No single arthritis treatment works for everyone as individuals respond differently to medication or treatment. The effectiveness of treatment is monitored by blood tests, X-rays and routine clinical exams.
Please note: side effects are possible with all medication.
Exercise is an important part of an arthritis treatment plan as it improves joint mobility, muscle strength, tendon flexibility and general wellness. Fatigue is often problematic for arthritis patients, but so is inactivity, therefore it is important for sufferers to balance rest and activity.
There are so many myths and misconceptions about arthritis it is important for a newly diagnosed patient to learn all they can about this illness.
Image via Wikipedia