Are your suffering from joint pains? If yes, then it might be a symptom of arthritis. But do we know what is arthritis? The term arthritis sounds familiar to most of us but the meaning of it is not well understood. Truly speaking, arthritis is just a formal way of referring joint pains or joint disorders in medical terms. Being a rheumatic disease, it not only causes pains and stiffness in the joints, but also has the tendency to severely affect the muscles, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons apart from the joints.
The symptoms of arthritis may be recurring in nature, they can be gentle, moderate, or harsh. They may stay the same for a period of time or even get worse with time. Arthritic people includes men, women, and even children. The prominence and frequency of this disease is quite an alarming one as about five crore people worldwide are suffering from arthritis in its different forms.
Types of Arthritis
Though arthritis is all about the inflammation in the joints, still it is found in different forms. There are 100 types of arthritis found among patients with the symptoms varying from mild to severe. Common arthritis may cause swelling, stiffness or pain in the joints. But in cases of severe arthritis, the condition of the patient can be very gruesome; it can cause lingering pain, difficulty in walking or climbing stairs. Sometimes arthritis affects the other organs in the body like eyes, heart, kidneys, lungs, and skin apart from the joints.
1. Inflammatory Arthritis: This arthritis severely affects the joints with pain, swelling, and stiffness. The inflammation caused in this arthritis is not the result of any infection, injury or surgery. The implications of this disorder are so severe that it damages the joint’s surface and the underlying bone. The three types of inflammatory arthritis are-
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the immune system of the body attacks the cartilage (tissue connecting the joints together). It leads to stiffness, joint pains, sleeping difficulties, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, and joint deformities.
- Reactive arthritis: Reactive arthritis is caused due to a reaction of an infection in a body part elsewhere in the body. The infection leads to inflammation on the affected joints. This type of arthritis often takes place in your bladder or genitals.
- Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis is a joint disorder often accompanied by a skin infection called psoriasis. Under this condition, the immune system of the body attacks the healthy tissue leading to inflammation in the joints.
2. Degenerative or mechanical arthritis: When a number of conditions lead to injuring the cartilage of the bones, it is called degenerative or mechanical arthritis. This makes the cartilage thinner and weathered. As this connecting tissue becomes uneven, the bones get rubbed against each other causing swelling and pain in the joints.
3. Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a prevalent deteriorating joint disease with bad implications on the tendons and ligaments, cartilage, and the underlying bone of a joint. This eventually leads to stiffness and inflammation in the joints. The joints most often affected by osteoarthritis are those that get heavy use, such as hips, knees, hands, the spine, the base of the thumb, and the big toe joint.
4. Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain: Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain is a kind of arthritis in which the pain actually occurs in the tissues rather than the joints or bones. This can be due to an injury or continuous use of any body part.
5. Septic arthritis: Septic arthritis commonly affects the hips and knees. This condition is the result of a fungal, viral, or bacterial infection arising from a surgery or an injury. The microorganisms spread infection in the blood which later gets transmitted to the joints leading to inflammation. This arthritis is often accompanied by chills and fever.
6. Metabolic arthritis: Metabolic arthritis is caused when there is an excess accumulation of uric acid in the body. This acid takes the form of needle-like structures in some joints leading to extreme joint pains or gout attack. This arthritis usually occurs in hands or big toe.
7. Juvenile arthritis (JA): Juvenile arthritis is also called childhood arthritis. It is found in children below 16 years of age. This condition leads to eroding of bones, tightening of tissues and muscles, misaligning of joints, and changing growth patterns.
8. Spondylarthropathies: Spondylarthropathies is the arthritis of the spine. The person suffering from this arthritis feels a stiffness and pain in their lower back. This condition attacks the tendons and ligaments located on the joints. In serious cases of spondylarthropathies, bone fusion takes place which causes spine deformation and impairment of shoulders and hips.
9. Gout: Gout, a type of arthritis, results from the excessive building up of uric acid crystals in your body fluids and tissues. This happens when the body produces excess amounts of uric acid and excretes less from the body. Gout appears as a red, swollen joint with extreme pain.
Causes of Arthritis
The causes of arthritis depend on the type of arthritis a person is suffering from. In most cases, the root cause of this disorder is the wear and tear of the cartilage, a tissue which connects bones to one another. It is an important part of the skeletal system as it helps in gliding of the muscles which further helps in body movements. A decrease in the cartilage can cause various types of arthritis.
Some other causes include-
- Injuries can lead to degenerative arthritis
- Abnormal functioning of the immune system can cause rheumatoid arthritis
- Aberrant metabolism, causing gout
- Inheritance may induce osteoarthritis
- Increased physical activity
Treatment of Arthritis
There are abundant things that we can do to maintain better joint function, movement and value of life. Having awareness about the disorder and its treatment, taking out time for exercise or yoga, and preserving a healthy weight is fundamental. The treatment of arthritis focuses on controlling the pain and reducing joint damage. The doctors treating arthritis always suggests its patients go for physiotherapy. This therapy helps in managing the symptoms of arthritis to some extent.
Medications: Medications are given to the patients with non-inflammatory arthritis like osteoarthritis in extreme situations. When the pain of this disorder becomes unbearable and uncontrollable from other treatments, then the doctor prescribes medications to the patients.
Heating pads and ice packs: Heating pads and icing packs are ideal treatments to cure pains of joints and muscles. Patients with arthritis always find these two as the saviors from pains. They help in soothing the pain and provide relief to the patients.
Movement assistance equipments: If an arthritis patient is finding difficulty in movement, he can make use of canes, raised toilet seats, or walkers, to help reduce the pressure on the sore joints.
Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy is extremely helpful in some cases of arthritis. It elevates the pain and gives relief to the patients.
Surgery: Surgery is recommended by doctors to the patients of arthritis under extreme conditions. It is performed to soothe the incurable pain, correct deformity, and improve joints movement.
Exercise: Exercise improves the blood flow in the body, improves mobility, and enhances the muscles surrounding the joints. Doing exercise regularly keeps the joints strong and flexible.
Swimming and water aerobics: These two activities help in reducing the pressure on the sore joints.
Natural remedies: Arthritis can be treated naturally by following a healthy and a balanced diet. The patients can include fish, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, beans, olive oil, and whole grains in their diets.
Yoga: Just like exercise, yoga also helps in improving the flexibility of the joints and improves mobility in the patients with arthritis.
Massage: Massaging the muscles on the joints with a delicate hand increases the blood flow and soothes the affected joints.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a therapy in which fine needles are inserted at the affected points on the skin to heal any kind of pain, including that of arthritis.
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