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All You Need To Know About Arthritis

Overview

Arthritis is a serious health condition which can cause substantial morbidity, but can be treated or possibly prevented. Some types of Arthritis is more common in women compared to men.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. It is a leading cause of disability and morbidity. The most commonly affected joints include the knees, hips and hands other than shoulders.

What are the most common types of Arthritis?

There are over 100 other types of arthritis. The three most common kinds of arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, which is a non-inflammatory degenerative joint disease characterized by joint cartilage damage. This type of arthritis usually affects middle-aged and older people. The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic disease with inflammatory changes occurring throughout the body’s connective tissues. It is characterized by the inflammation of the membrane lining the joint, which leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling and can result in loss of movement, loss of shape and alignment and sometimes complete destruction of the joint. It affects women three times more than men.
  • Gout: Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that, unlike RA, does not cause body-wide inflammation. Uric acid crystals are the main problem in gout. If your body produces too much uric acid or if you are unable to remove excess uric acid fast enough, it can build up in the blood (called hyperuricemia). Excess uric acid forms crystals in the joints resulting in extremely painful joint inflammation. Generally, gout strikes in the large joint of our big toe. However, it can also affect other joints. With a gout, you go to bed feeling fine but wake up with agonizing pain.

Other serious and fairly common forms of arthritis are Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Scleroderma, Ankylosing Spondylitis and Juvenile Arthritis.

Arthritis is seen in children also. The Arthritis more common in children is Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which peaks between 1 to 3 years and 8 to 12 years.

What are the causes?

  • Joint diseases leading to inflammation and pain of the joint – Autoimmune diseases and infections
  • Broken bones
  • Wear and tear due to old age, Obesity, etc.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Reduced ability to move the joint
  • Redness of skin around the joint
  • Warmth around the joint

How is Arthritis diagnosed?

Early diagnosis and treatment tailored to an individual’s needs are crucial in slowing or preventing damage to joints. Only a doctor can diagnose if you have arthritis and if yes, what type it is, after X-rays, blood tests, MRI and other laboratory tests etc.

How Can Arthritis be treated?

The main focus of treatment for arthritis is to control pain, minimize joint pain and improve the function and quality of life. Treatment modalities like Medical, Non-pharmacological therapies or surgery in combination or alone can be administered.

As there are many types of arthritis, each type has different symptoms and treatments. The good news is that arthritis can be controlled. Care for arthritis often involves more than one type of treatment. Treatment may change over time and may be different depending on the kind of arthritis being treated. It is vital for you to initiate treatment early and discuss options for treatment with your doctor on a regular basis. While finding the right treatment can take time, it will allow you to lead a normal active lifestyle. Arthritis treatments can be divided into several categories such as:

  • Medication
  • Exercise
  • Heat or Cold therapy
  • Pacing activities
  • Joint Protection

Self Help skills:

You can learn ways to better manage how arthritis affects you emotionally by talking about your feelings with family members and friends, doing the exercises regularly, and by joining your local arthritis support group.

Non-surgical treatment:

includes cartilage strengthening, nutritional supplements (glusamine, collagen peptides, etc.), anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy, intra articular injections (steroids, sodium hyaluronate, Platelet rich plasma- PRP, etc.)

Surgery:

Many people do not require surgery, but in severe cases surgery is effective in eliminating pain when other treatment methods have failed and it can give a new lease of

life to that joint. In general, for mild to moderate arthritis arthroscopic surgery and for severe arthritis, a total joint replacement is often needed.

Prevention tips:

  • Early diagnosis and treatment can help a lot in preventing the damage to joints
  • Eat a healthy well balanced diet to help maintain ideal body weight
  • Low Vitamin D and calcium levels can lead to osteoarthritis along with old age. So have mineral supplements under the observation of a doctor.
  • Exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles around joints and increase the bone calcium deposition. Physical activity reduces pain, improves function and delays disability
  • Post-menopausal women need to talk to their gynecologist regarding hormone replacement therapy and calcium supplements
  • Protect your joints from injury
  • Avoid staying in one position for too long or avoid extra stress on the joints
  • Avoid alcohol consumption and smoking as both can weaken your bones, muscles and joints
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