ArthritisUpdated: 20 Sep 2023, 12:59 pm IST
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a disease that affects your joints. It causes one or more joints to swell, which can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. The most common symptoms of arthritis include joint stiffness and pain. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common types of arthritis that affects millions of people around the world.
Arthritis is a medical condition that leads to the swelling and inflammation of one or more joints. It is an umbrella term for a group of more than 100 different types of joint disorders. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common types of arthritis. However, other types of arthritis can also affect people. It affects people of all ages, but it is more common in older adults. While the symptoms of arthritis depend on the type and severity of the condition. Some of the common symptoms include pain in your joints, swelling, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Although there is no cure for arthritis, various treatments such as medications, physical therapy, and certain lifestyle changes are important to manage the condition. Early intervention and diagnosis can help prevent further joint damage and improve overall joint health.
Causes of Arthritis
The causes of arthritis depend on the type of arthritis that has affected you. For example, gout is caused by too much uric acid in your body. But the exact cause of other types of arthritis is unknown. However, there are some common factors that contribute to the development of arthritis:
- Age: The risk of developing arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, increase as you grow older.
- Genetics: Having a family history of rheumatoid arthritis can also increase your risk of developing the condition.
- Autoimmune factors: Autoimmune arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissues, leading to inflammation and joint damage.
- Obesity: Bring obese or overweight can add stress to joints, increasing your risk of arthritis.
- Infections: Bacterial or viral infections can trigger reactive arthritis, increasing the risk of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.
- Metabolic factors: Conditions like gout can lead to the accumulation of uric acid crystals in joints due to high levels of uric acid in the blood.
Key Facts of Arthritis
Symptoms of Arthritis
While symptoms can vary, there are some common symptoms of arthritis that you should know:
- Persistent or recurring joint pain
- Swollen joints or inflammation of the joints
- Stiff joints
- Joint redness and warmth
- Reduced range of motion
- Generalized weakness
It is essential to note that arthritis symptoms can vary in intensity and may come and go. If you experience persistent joint pain, swelling or stiffness, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Arthritis
The diagnosis of arthritis typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and various diagnostic tests.
1. Medical history: Your doctor will begin by taking a detailed medical history, including your symptoms, their duration, and any family history of arthritis.
2. Physical examination: A thorough physical examination will be conducted to assess joint function, swelling, tenderness, and range of motion.
3. Blood tests: Tests are often ordered to help diagnose different types of arthritis. These tests can include:
- Complete blood count (CBC) to check for signs of inflammation or infection.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP) to measure the level of inflammation in the body.
- Rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.
- Uric acid level to diagnose gout.
- Imaging Tests which include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.
4. Joint aspiration (Arthrocentesis): In some cases, the doctor may perform joint aspiration, where a small sample of fluid is withdrawn from the affected joint to check for signs of infection, gout, or other conditions.
5. Other specialised tests: Depending on the suspected type of arthritis, additional tests like HLA-B27 testing for ankylosing spondylitis or anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) testing for lupus may be ordered.
Treatment of Arthritis
The treatment of arthritis aims to alleviate symptoms, reduce inflammation, improve joint function, and enhance the overall quality of life. The treatment approach can vary depending on the type and severity of arthritis. Here are some common treatment options:
Your doctor may recommend some medicines such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), corticosteroids, and biologic response modifiers to relieve pain and reduce inflammation caused by arthritis.
2. Physical therapy
Exercise and physical therapy can help improve joint flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Your doctor may recommend you do certain exercises to manage the condition.
3. Occupational therapy
Your doctor may suggest you get occupational therapy, which involves techniques and devices that make daily activities easier and reduce strain on your joints.
4. Lifestyle changes
There are a few lifestyle changes that might help you, including:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a healthy balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods.
- Engaging in low-impact exercises like swimming and yoga.
In severe cases, the doctor may suggest getting a joint replacement surgery that involves replacing a damaged joint with an artificial one. They may also suggest joint repair or joint fusion, depending on the severity of the condition.
Related Stories to Arthritis
Do genetics play a role in the development of arthritis?
Yes, genetics do play a role in the development of arthritis. In fact, studies have found that as much as 60 percent of people with arthritis have a family history of the condition.
Does prolonged sitting cause arthritis?
Lack of physical activity and stiffness can be one of the reasons for developing arthritis. Consult a doctor if you experience joint stiffness, hip pain, or pain in the legs after sitting.
Which is the most painful type of arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis, gout and osteoarthritis are three of the most painful types of arthritis.
Is there a link between arthritis and other health conditions like diabetes or heart disease?
Studies have found that people with arthritis are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. It has been also found that inflammatory types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, etc. can increase your risk of developing heart disease.