Arthritis is a medical condition that describes the inflammation of the joint which result into pains, swelling and stiffness in and around the joints. There are over 150 different types of arthritis that affects people all over the world. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. According to the United States Centre for disease control and prevention, an estimated 54.4 million US adults and diagnosed with arthritis related conditions yearly by their doctors between 2013 and 2015.
Arthritis is more prevalent in people above the age of 65, although it can also affect children and other age groups. It is more common in women than men and obesity can also increase the risk of developing this condition. The symptoms of arthritis may develop gradually or come up suddenly and this health condition is of major concern because of the undesirable symptoms they bring up and hindering of daily activities in chronic cases.
Types of arthritis
There are more than 150 different types of arthritis with different causes but the most common type that can that affect people globally is osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Cartilage is a soft and flexible connective tissue that is found in the joints. It serves as a shock absorber between joints which allows joints to slide over one another thereby reducing friction and preventing wear and tear. When the cartilage breaks down due to wear and tear then this health condition is called osteoarthritis. The breakdown of the cartilage can be due to aging, genetics, joint injury or infection. Osteoarthritis affects all joints but they are mostly common in the hips, knees,back and hand. Osteoarthritis cause severe joint pains, stiffness and swollen joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily caused by an autoimmune disorder.Autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system mistakenly target and attack the body’s tissues. This causes inflammation and swelling of the synovial membrane which result into destruction of bones and cartilage within the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis affect the knees,shoulder, wrist, hips and ankles.
Risk factors of arthritis
These are several conditions and lifestyles that contribute to the development of arthritis and they include:
- Age: it is an important factor that determines your risk of arthritis. The older you become the higher your risk of developing arthritis. Arthritis is most common in people above the age of 65, although it can also affect children and other age groups.
- Sex/gender: women are more likely to develop arthritis compared to men. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are most common in women while gout affect men.
- Genetics: if you have a family medical history of arthritis you are more likely to develop the disease because of your genetic informations.
- Obesity: excessive body weight exact stress on the joints especially the knees and hips. People who are overweight are more likely to develop arthritis than those with healthy weight.
- Joint infections: some infectious microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses can affect the joints and cause severe inflammation and swelling thereby leading to arthritis.
- Joint injuries: an injury to the joint during intense physical activities can contribute to the development of arthritis.
- Unhealthy lifestyles: smoking and excessive alcohol intake can worsen arthritis-related conditions and even interfere with their medications thereby resulting into serious complications. Smoking and typically increase your risk of arthritis.
- Job: the kind of job you do can also determine your risk of arthritis. Jobs that involves lifting of heavy loads and repeated joint movement can put stress on the joint and lead to the development of arthritis.
Symptoms of arthritis
There are different symptoms of arthritis depending on the one you are. The most common symptoms of arthritis affect the joints and the symptoms include:
- Joint pains
- Stiffness of the joint
- Difficulty in walking
When to see your doctor
Contact your doctor for immediate medical treatment if you notice the following symptoms and conditions:
Persistence and recurrent joint pain swelling and stiffness
Joint pains that is accompanied by fatigue fever and rash
If your family have a medical history of arthritis
If you experience difficulty in walking
Diagnosis of arthritis
In order to diagnose arthritis, your doctor will review your medical history and also perform physical examination by checking your joint for tenderness, swelling, warmth redness and limited movement of joints.
Your doctor can also order for blood test to screen antibodies such as Rheumatoid Factors(RF), Anti-cyclic Citrullinated Peptide (anti-CCP), joint test and imaging test.
The imaging test for diagnosing arthritis include x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasounds which accurately detect the cause and severity of the arthritis by producing images of the damaged cartilage, bone and bone spurs.
Treatment of arthritis
There are different options for the treatment of arthritis and the primary purpose of the treatment is to relieve symptoms and prevent irreversible damages to the joint and other organs in the body. Your doctor may recommend combinations of treatment in order to enhance effective treatments.
The treatment options for arthritis include:
There are different kinds of medications that are used to treat arthritis. The commonly used ones include:
- Analgesics : they are also referred to as painkillers. This medication primarily relieves pains but do not reduce inflammations. A good example of analgesics is acetaminophen.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): this medications are commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and they work by suppressing the immune system from attacking your joint thereby preventing futher damages. Examples of DMARDs include hydroxychloroquine and leflunomide.
- Corticosteroids: these drugs can be administered orally or intravenously and they weaken the immune system and relieve inflammation. Examples of corticosteroids that are used for the treatment of arthritis include prednisone and dexamethasone.
- The use of creams that contains menthol and capsaicin which prevent pains from being transmitted from the joint.
These drugs should only be used on moderation based on doctor’s prescription because they also have side effects that can result into another health condition.
If the use of medications does not effectively treat arthritis your doctor may recommend surgery to help with treatment. Surgery can be done to replace damaged joint with artificial ones which is common in hips and knees replacement.
Joint fusion surgery is used to join together two bones until they heal and adhere as one. This surgical method is used for finger, wrist and ankle arthritis.
Natural remedies of arthritis
These are lifestyle factors as well as home remedies that can relieve the symptoms of arthritis. This remedies include:
- Maintenance of healthy weight: obesity can exact intense stress on the joints and the result into arthritis. Weight loss and maintenance of healthy weight can help reduce obesity thereby relieving and preventing the symptoms of arthritis.
- Development of good and healthy diet: eating a healthy diet especially those that have high contents of antioxidant can be helpful in lowering inflammations. Example of such foods include garlic, ginger, spinach, blueberries, fish (salmons and mackerel), nuts and seeds.
- Physical activity: engaging in more physical activities helps to strengthen the muscles and ligaments thereby reducing inflammations. Examples of exercise that are good for arthritis include jogging, walking and swimming.
- The use of heat pads and cold packs on the affected area of the joint can also help to relieve pains.