What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a term used to identify a cluster of disorders that affect muscles and bone joints. It literally means inflammation of joints which is very often accompanied by joint pains.
Causes of Arthritis
The causes vary, depending on the form of arthritis. They may include injury( which may lead to osteoarthritis), indirect and direct effects of viral and bacterial infections, hereditary factors, metabolic abnormalities like pseudogout and gout, and the body’s misdirected immune system( leading to rheumatoid arthritis).
Medication for Arthritis
Treatment usually starts with medications such as acetaminophen which have few side effects, with other medications being added if acetaminophen is unsuccessful in providing relief. Non steroid anti inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, narcotic pain killers, Tramadol, hyaluronic acid substitutes (for osteoarthritis), corticosteroids, anti rheumatic drugs like Methotrexate may also be suggested.
Prevention of Arthritis
A person can reduce the risk of contracting arthritis by making lifestyle changes, undergoing physical therapy, controlling body weight, healthier eating and exercising regularly. If a person experiences joint pains, he/she should get an early diagnosis that will lead to better prognosis of the disease.
Risk Factors of Arthritis
- Arthritis is more common among elderly people, especially above the age of 55.
- According to statistics, women are more susceptible to this disease, with more than 60% of all sufferers being female.
- Scientists have also discovered a number of genes which increase arthritis risk, so it can be concluded that heredity plays a part in development of arthritis.
- Tobacco and nicotine abuse can increase arthritis risk, especially rheumatoid arthritis.
- Infection of any joint can also develop in to arthritis.
- People who have sustained serious injuries, as in accidents, are likely to develop arthritis later on in life.
- People employed in certain occupations, such as sportspersons, can develop arthritis.
- Obesity and excess body weight can also lead to a person contracting arthritis.
Symptoms of Arthritis
- Most frequent symptoms for all arthritic disorders include varying levels of pain, joint stiffness, swelling and a continuous ache encircling the joint.
- Malaise or a general feeling of tiredness
- Inability to walk or to use hands
- Weight loss
- Poor sleep
- Muscle pains and aches
- Difficulty in flexing the joint
- In advance arthritis cases, secondary changes such as muscle weakness, and decreased aerobic fitness can be observed.
Treatment for Arthritis
There are a number of treatment options available depending on the form of arthritis and these include physical therapy, weight control and exercise, orthopedic bracing, joint replacement surgery in case of joint erosions etc.
Physical therapy helps in improving endurance, muscle strength and flexibility, decreasing pain and improving function. Splinting, paraffin wax dips, cold pack application can also be prescribed.
Occupational therapy involves reducing the stress on the joints while performing routine activities.
Types of Arthritis
There are more than 100 known kinds of arthritis and the number is only increasing.
The primary types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout or pseudo gout, septic arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Anhylosing Spondylitis and Still’s Disease.
Osteoarthritis is the most commonly occurring form of arthritis which affects both the smaller and larger bone joints in the hands, back, hip, knee and feet. It results from normal wear and tear of bone joints. It starts in the cartilage and finally leads to opposing bones eroding against each other.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the body’s immune system, for some unknown reason, starts to attack the body tissues. Most of the damage is borne by the cartilage and joint lining. It affects joints in wrists, fingers, elbows and knees. If it strikes children, skin rash, pain, fever and disability can be observed. Acute diagnosis and aggressive treatment can help a person recover satisfactorily.