ARTHRITIS: CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT AND PREVENTION

 

Arthritis is a disease that affects your joints (areas where your bones meet and move). Arthritis usually involves inflammation or degeneration (breakdown) of your joints. These changes can cause pain when you use the joint. Arthritis is frequently accompanied by joint pain.

Joint pain is referred to as arthralgia. When four or more joints are involved, the arthritis is referred to as polyarthritis. When two or three joints are involved, it is referred to as oligoarthritis. When only a single joint is involved, it is referred to as monoarthritis.

Arthritis is most common in the following areas of the body:

  • Feet
  • Hands
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Lower back.

Causes Of Arthritis

Different types of arthritis have different causes. For instance, gout is the result of too much uric acid in your body. But for other types of arthritis, the exact cause is unknown.

You may develop arthritis if you have:

  • Injury (leading to osteoarthritis),
  • Metabolic abnormalities (such as gout with elevated uric acid blood levels and pseudogout with hypercalcemia),
  • A family history of arthritis.
  • A job or play a sport that puts repeated stress on your joints.
  • A misdirected immune system with autoimmunity (such as in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus).
  • Have certain bacterial or viral infections

Risk Factors of Arthritis

Some factors make you more likely to develop arthritis, including:

  • Age: The risk of arthritis increases as you get older.
  • Lifestyle: Smoking or a lack of exercise can increase your risk of arthritis.
  • Sex: Most types of arthritis are more common in women.
  • Weight: Obesity puts extra strain on your joints, which can lead to arthritis.

 

Symptoms Of Arthritis

Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints. Joint inflammation from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, pain, and warmth. Other symptoms include:

  • Limited range of motion that sometimes goes away after movement
  • Clicking or popping with bending
  • Muscle weakness around the joint
  • Instability or buckling of the joint
  • Bony growths in the fingers
  • Grating or scraping feeling in the knees

Types Of Arthritis

There are many types of arthritis (over 100 identified). The most common types of arthritis include:

  1. Osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear” arthritis, which develops when joint cartilage breaks down from repeated stress. It’s the most common form of arthritis.
  2. Ankylosing spondylitis, or arthritis of the spine (usually your lower back).
  3. Juvenile arthritis (JA), a disorder where the immune system attacks the tissue around joints. JA typically affects children 16 or younger.
  4. Gout, a disease that causes hard crystals of uric acid to form in your joints.
  5. Psoriatic arthritis, joint inflammation that develops in people with psoriasis (autoimmune disorder that causes skin irritation).
  6. Rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that causes the immune system to attack synovial membranes in your joints.

Treatment

Treatment for arthritis aims to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain function and quality of life. A range of medications and lifestyle strategies can help achieve this and protect joints from further damage.

Conservative (nonsurgical) treatments include:

  • Medication: Anti-inflammatory and pain medications may help relieve your arthritis symptoms. Some medications, called biologics, target your immune system’s inflammatory response. A healthcare provider may recommend biologics for your rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis.
  • Physical therapy: Rehabilitation can help improve strength, range of motion and overall mobility. Therapists can teach you how to adjust your daily activities to lessen arthritic pain.
  • Therapeutic injections: Cortisone shots may help temporarily relieve pain and inflammation in your joints. Arthritis in certain joints, such as your knee, may improve with a treatment called viscosupplementation. It injects lubricant to help joints move smoothly.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery to replace your joint with an artificial one may be an option. This form of surgery is most commonly performed to replace hips and knees.

If your arthritis is most severe in your fingers or wrists, your doctor may perform joint fusion. In this procedure, the ends of your bones are fused, eliminating the joint and therefore eliminating the site of inflammation.

Lifestyle Changes

Losing any excess weight and maintaining a moderate weight reduces the risk of developing OA and can reduce symptoms if you already have the condition.

Eating a nutrient-dense diet is important for weight loss. Choosing a diet with lots of antioxidants, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, can help reduce inflammation. Other inflammation-reducing foods include fish and nuts.

 

Foods that should be limited or avoided if you have arthritis include:

  • Fried foods
  • Processed foods
  • Dairy products
  • A high intake of meat

Natural Therapies

A number of natural remedies have been suggested for different types of arthritis. Some research has supported the use of devil’s claw, rosehip, and Boswellia, from the frankincense tree. Devil’s claw and Boswellia supplements can be purchased online.

There is some evidence that turmeric may help, but more studies are needed to confirm their effectiveness.

 

Various other herbs and spices have been recommended for RA, but again, more research is needed. They include turmeric, garlic, ginger, black pepper, and green tea.

 

Complications

When left untreated, symptoms of arthritis may worsen and affect your day-to-day life. Some possible complications associated with this condition include:

  • Reduced mobility.
  • Increased risk of metabolic disorders
  • Inflammation in other areas of your body.
  • Possible weight gain
  • Risk of falls.
  • Effects on mental health
  • Decreased ability to work

Prevention

You can lower your chances of developing arthritis by:

  • Avoiding tobacco products.
  • Doing low-impact, non-weight bearing exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Reducing your risk of joint injuries.

 

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