What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis causes tenderness and swelling in the joints due to inflammation. Arthritis may affect patients of any age, including children, teenagers, and younger adults. Symptoms of arthritis tend to increase gradually over time, although they can occasionally appear suddenly. Arthritis most often develops in overweight patients and more often in women than in men.
What Are The Different Types of Arthritis?
The term “Arthritis” can apply to around 200 different conditions affecting the joints, surrounding tissues, and other connective tissues. The two most common forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.Both forms of arthritis produce differing symptoms and require different kinds of treatments.
The most common form, Osteoarthritis, affects around 10% of men and 13% of women over the age of 60. Osteoarthritis often develops in people around the age of 40 years or older, and more commonly develops in women or those predisposed to the affliction. At first, osteoarthritis wears down the smooth cartilage that covers the end of the joint. This makes mobility more difficult, which results in stiffness and discomfort. Ultimately, osteoarthritis results in the inflammation and the forming of bone spurs, or osteophytes. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the hands, hips, and knees.
Separate from Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis refers to an autoimmune disorder that causes the patient’s own immune system to attack the joint tissue lining. Eventually, this condition spreads across the joint and deforms it. Rheumatoid arthritis causes severe pain and swelling along with various other problems with the organs of the body. In the United States, rheumatoid arthritis affects nearly 1.5 million Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis also affects women 3 times more likely than men. Other forms of arthritis also include gout, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, cervical spondylosis, facet arthritis, fibromyalgia, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, septic arthritis, etc.
What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis?
The most common symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joint. This condition also decreases the range of motion and causes redness of the skin around the joint. Patients with arthritis experience these symptoms usually in the morning. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, a patient may feel a loss of appetite because of the inflammation of the immune system. Severe rheumatoid arthritis also causes joint deformity and makes the patient anemic by decreasing the red blood cell count.
Arthritis treatments focus on reducing the symptoms and improving the function of the joint. Patients may need a combination of treatments to determine what works best for them.
Commonly used medications for arthritis include:
- NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Examples include ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.
- Counterirritants. Rubbing ointments that contain menthol or capsaicin on the arthritic joint may sooth the transmission of pain signals from the joint itself.
- Steroids. Corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, reduce inflammation and pain and slow joint damage. Physicians can also inject Corticosteroids directly into the painful joint. These treatments can offer extreme pain relief, albeit only temporarily.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). As Rheumatoid Arthritis results from an auto-immune issue, these drugs will slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, possibly saving the joints and tissues from permanent damage.
Some patients with arthritis find Physical therapy highly beneficial. Exercises that improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles around joints can take pressure off of the joint. In some cases, a combination of steroid injections and physical therapy can reduce inflammation and build muscle to the point where patients can avoid a previously necessary surgery.
If all conservative measures have failed, doctors may suggest various surgeries, including:
- Joint repair. In some cases, surgeons can smooth or realign the joint surfaces to reduce pain and improve function of the connecting tissues. Surgeons often perform these surgeons arthroscopically through small incisions.
- Joint replacement. This procedure entirely removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial joint. Joint specialists most often replace hips and knees in this manner.
- Joint fusion. Surgeons often use this procedure more for smaller joints, such as vertebrae, wrist joints, ankle joints and fingers. It removes the ends of the two bones in the joint and then locks those ends together until they heal into one rigid unit.