What is arthritis?
The term arthritis literally means inflammation of a joint but is generally used to describe any condition in which there is damage to the cartilage. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. The warning signs that inflammation presents are redness, swelling, heat, and pain.
The cartilage is a padding that absorbs stress. The proportion of cartilage damage and synovial inflammation varies with the type and stage of arthritis. Usually, the pain early on is due to inflammation. In the later stages, when the cartilage is worn away, most of the pain comes from the mechanical friction of raw bones rubbing on each other.
What are the different types of arthritis?
There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The most common are:
Also called degenerative joint disease, this is the most common type of arthritis, which occurs most often in older people. This disease affects cartilage, the tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bones in a joint. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage starts to wear away over time. In extreme cases, the cartilage can completely wear away, leaving nothing to protect the bones in a joint, causing bone-on-bone contact. Bones may also bulge, or stick out at the end of a joint, called a bone spur.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
This is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system (the body’s way of fighting infection) attacks healthy joints, tissues, and organs. Occurring most often in women of childbearing age (15-44), this disease inflames the lining (or synovium) of joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints. When severe, rheumatoid arthritis can deform, or change, a joint. For example, the joints in a person’s finger can become deformed, causing the finger to bend or curve.
When a person has gout, they have higher than normal levels of uric acid in the blood. The body makes uric acid from many of the foods we eat. Too much uric acid causes deposits, called uric acid crystals, to form in the fluid and lining of the joints. The result is an extremely painful attack of arthritis. The most common joint gout affects is the big toe. This disease is more common in men than in women.
- Infectious Arthritis
Arthritis can be caused by an infection, either bacterial or viral, such as Lyme disease. When this disease is caused by bacteria, early treatment with antibiotics can ease symptoms and cure the disease.
- Reactive Arthritis
This is arthritis that develops after a person has an infection in the urinary tract, bowel, or other organs. People who have this disease often have eye problems, skin rashes, and mouth sores.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Also called lupus or SLE, this is an autoimmune disease. When a person has an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks itself, killing healthy cells and tissue, rather than doing its job to protect the body from disease and infection. Lupus can inflame and damage a person’s joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, blood vessels, heart, and brain. African American women are three times more likely to get lupus than Caucasian women. It is also more common in Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian women.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
This disease most often affects the spine, causing pain and stiffness. It can also cause arthritis in the knees. It affects mostly men in their late teenage and early adult years.
- Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
The most common type of arthritis in children, this disease causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints. A young person can also have rashes and fevers with this disease.
Causing inflammation and weakness in the muscles, this disease can affect the whole body and cause disability.
This condition involves inflammation of the bursa, small, fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction between bones and other moving structures in the joints. The inflammation may result from arthritis in the joint, injury, or infection of the bursa. Bursitis produces pain and tenderness and may limit the movement of nearby joints.
Also called tendonitis, this condition refers to inflammation of tendons (tough cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone) caused by overuse, injury, or a rheumatic condition. Tendinitis produces pain and tenderness and may restrict the movement of nearby joints.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis; symptoms vary according to the form of arthritis. Each form affects the body differently.
Arthritic symptoms generally include swelling and pain or tenderness in one or more joints for more than two weeks, redness, or heat in a joint, limitation of motion of joint, early morning stiffness and skin changes, including rashes.
What you can do?
- Consult a doctor who will determine the type of arthritis you have
- Rest the joint until the pain subsides to prevent further inflammation
- To ease the pain or stiffness of the joint, apply heat on the joint for about 15 minutes once or twice a day using a hot water bottle, towel or an infrared lamp
- Take painkillers or anti-inflammatories, as recommended by your Doctor
- If you are overweight, try to reduce weight to lighten the load on weight-bearing joints
- Participate in regular exercise.
From learning about the importance of exercising regularly to fully understanding your arthritis medications, the information contained in this section is meant to provide you with insights, information, and tips that can be used by you to help make living with arthritis a little bit more manageable.
For people with arthritis, learning to make it part of your life can be difficult. However, learning as much as you can about your particular type of arthritis and actively working with your arthritis treatment team are two very effective ways of regaining control over your life. There is plenty of information, some specific to arthritis, and some not, that can be very helpful to someone facing the challenges associated with having a chronic or lifelong disease.
Our suggestion is – do not let arthritis beat you. Take control. How? Arm yourself with as much information as possible. Learn from the experiences of others in similar circumstances. What we are presenting here is a virtual toolbox of tips for living well with arthritis. Some may work for you one day and not the other. Some may work for you but not others. That is why we’ve tried to cover several topics. There are plenty of tools or tips here. Use them or refer to them when you need them. Call upon them when you require help.
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Disclaimer: All contents on this site are for general information and in no circumstances information be substituted for professional advice from the relevant healthcare professional, Writer does not take responsibility of any damage done by the misuse or use of the information.