Arthritis

Arthritic Rheumatoid Disease
Arthritic Rheumatoid Disease

Overview Of Arthritis

Arthritis an umbrella term for a condition defined by inflammation of a person’s joints, whether only one or multiple. Over 100 separate conditions fall within this umbrella, and they can affect the joints themselves, tissues around the joint, and/or other connective tissues. Two of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Commonly Associated With

Joint degeneration and joint inflammation 

Causes Of Arthritis

Normal joints have protective cartilage surrounding them that allows for smooth movement. These cartilage areas also serve as shock absorbers for the joint during movements such as walking.

When this cartilage breaks down (which is common in arthritis) the bones are no longer as protected as before, and they can become damaged because they rub against each other more than they should during movement. This results in inflammation and stiffness of the affected joints.

This is the basic process of how arthritis comes about, although sometimes it can differ for specific arthritis subtypes.

Other parts of the joint besides cartilage can be damaged due to arthritis. Examples include:

  • Tendons and ligaments around the joint
  • Bursae, which are the linings of the tendons and ligaments
  • The synovium (fluid-filled pockets around joints that help them move smoothly)
  • Bones located near the affected joint

Sometimes arthritic joint inflammation can occur because specific triggers. Examples of these can include:

  • “Wear and tear” that occurs with normal use of the joints over time
  • Infections, most often viral or bacterial
  • Broken bones 
  • The joints may be invaded by sharp crystals, made up of material such as calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate or uric acid
  • Autoimmune diseases can also cause arthritis (this is when the person’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself)

A lot of the time, a person’s joint inflammation will clear up once the cause disappears/is treated. But, in some cases, it doesn’t. When this occurs, the person has chronic (long-term) arthritis.

Arthritis can happen at any age and to anyone, regardless of gender. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which becomes increasingly more common with age.

Symptoms Of Arthritis 

Arthritis symptoms most often appear over time. But, sometimes they can also appear suddenly.

The condition is most common in those over the age of 65. But, some rarer types can appear in children, teens, and young adults.

Arthritis is more commonly seen in women than men, and those who are overweight seem to be at a higher risk of developing it.

Common symptoms can include:

  • Pain, stiffness, and swelling in one or multiple joints
  • A reduced range of motion for the joint
  • Stiffness of the joint in the morning that lasts at least an hour
  • Stiffness and pain in joints that worsens with long periods of inactivity and improves with physical activities (such as swimming, walking, or stretching)
  • Less common symptoms can include unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, and/or anemia

Treatment

Arthritis is not often a “curable” condition. But, symptoms can improve with treatment, at least in most cases.

The overarching goal of arthritis treatment is to:

  • Improve joint function
  • Prevent further damage to the joints
  • Reduce joint pain and inflammation

The most common methods of treatment include pain medications, exercise, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Medications such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen, Aspirin, or naproxen can help. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in general are a good choice for symptom management.

In some of the more extreme cases, surgical intervention can be an option. Joint replacement, such as a total knee joint replacement, can help in some cases.

There are a lot of possible physical therapy options out there. Health care providers should discuss options with patients beforehand.

Diagnosis Of Arthritis 

When in the process of diagnosing arthritis, a health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about the person’s medical history.

Common signs of arthritis include:

  • Limited range of motion (difficulty moving a joint)
  • Tender, red, or unusually warm joints
  • Excess fluid around a joint
  • For some types of arthritis, joint deformities can occur. This can be a sign of severe untreated rheumatoid arthritis

Additional diagnostic tests may include:

  • Joint x-rays and blood tests to check for infection or other possible causes of arthritis
  • A sample of joint fluid (taken with a needle) can be sent to a lab to check for infection or inflammation-causing crystals within the joint