What is Arthritis?
When people hear the word arthritis, they usually think of a disease that only the elderly have. While it’s true that a lot of older people have this condition and undergo arthritis treatment, it can also happen to young people. But what exactly is arthritis?
Arthritis means an inflammation of the joints, or the parts of your skeletal system where the bones link together. It doesn’t refer to a specific disease, but it’s usually a symptom of another condition. It is most commonly used to refer to joint pain, joint inflammation, or a disease in a person’s joints.
Since it affects the joints, arthritis can affect your hands, feet, knees, elbows, legs, hips, and so on. Any part of your body that has a joint can possibly develop arthritis. But usually arthritis manifests in a person’s hands, wrists, elbows, and knees.
Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid arthritis
There are two general types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While both of them cause damage to a person’s joints, they do so in different ways.
Osteoarthritis results from the wear and tear of the cartilage inside your joints. The cartilage acts as a shock absorber, and cushions your bones as well as prevents them from grinding against each other. Over time, the cartilage can wear out, and the bones in your joints start grinding against each other, which can cause the symptoms of arthritits.
Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand, also causes joint damage, but it results from your own immune system attacking the lining of your joints called the synovial membrane. Over time, the lining can wear out, and the cartilage gets destroyed along with it.
How common is arthritis?
It is not easy to find out just how many people in the world suffer from arthritis. This is because a large number of people are not able to seek arthritis treatment, or do not have access to it, so they cannot be counted. However, conservative estimates say that one out of every three people aged 18 to 64 have some form of arthritis.
Arthritis is a widely known condition, and a lot of people have it, but until now we do not understand a lot about it. This is partly due to the fact that any number of things can cause arthritis, and it is not always easy to find out the root cause.
What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
The symptoms of arthritis affect a person’s joints. These include the following:
- Joint pain
- Stiffness in the joints
- Decreased range of motion
- Redness and swelling in the joints
When should I see my doctor?
If you experience any of the symptoms above, it is a good idea to get in touch with your doctor. Remember, arthritis is a condition that gets worse over time, so the longer it takes for you to get treated, the worse the symptoms can get. Early arthritis treatment can help you have a better quality of life, and avoid suffering the painful symptoms and complications of arthritis.
Causes and Risk Factors
Arthritis can be caused by a number of things, including the following:
- Wear and tear on the joints
- Having conditions such as lupus that cause an autoimmune response which can damage your joints
- Gout, or having too much uric acid in your body can also cause arthritis
- Fibromyalgia, or a condition that causes pain in your muscles and bones
- Conditions such as ankulosing spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that causes the small bones of the spine to fuse together
What are the risk factors for arthritis?
The risk factors for arthritis include the following:
- If you have a family member with arthritis, such as a parent or sibling, you have a higher risk of developing arthritis
- Age also plays a role, because as people grow older, the risk for arthritis increases
- Women are also more likely to develop arthritis. However, in the case of gout, men are more prone to having this disease
- Joint injury can also increase a person’s risk for arthritis
- Being obese or overweight puts extra strain on a person’s bones. This means that obese or overweight people have a higher risk of developing arthritis
How is arthritis diagnosed?
For cases of rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor will first check your family history to find out if you have an increased risk of arthritis.
A blood test might also be done in order to check for an antibody called rheumatoid factor. This is commonly found in the blood of people with rheumatoid arthritis. Another antibody called anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide or anti-CCP can be an indicator of rheumatoid arthritis.
For osteoarthritis, your doctor will go through your symptoms, and check all of your joints. People who are aged 45 and older, have joint pain, and suffer stiffness in their joints are usually diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will be giving you some advice on what forms of arthritis treatment are best for you.
Arthritis treatment involves mostly managing the symptoms. Arthritis itself can’t be cured, but there are ways of reducing pain and slowing down the degenerative effects of this condition.
Here are some forms of arthritis treatment that are available:
- Certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, might be prescribed by your doctor. These help manage the pain and inflammation that results from the rubbing of your joints.
- Pain killers can also be prescribed if the pain is severe.
- If you are overweight, your doctor might ask you to lose weight in order to reduce the strain on your bones.
- Regular exercise also helps keep your muscles and bones strong and in good shape.
- Physical therapy is also an option, especially for those with limited mobility.
One thing to remember about arthritis is you can take steps to lower your risk before it even starts. Arthritis usually develops in old age, so making sure that your joints are healthy while you are still young can help lower your risk.
Here are some ways that you could prevent osteoarthritis naturally:
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day.
- Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables
- If you are obese or overweight, try to slim down
- Try to have good posture
- Avoid exercise that puts too much or excessive strain on your joints
Arthritis might be a common condition, but it does not mean that you will automatically acquire it in old age. Keeping yourself healthy and making sure your joints are strong can help prevent you from suffering from the symptoms of arthritis in the future.
It is also a good idea to always take not of any abnormal symptoms, especially in your joints, as this might indicate that there is something wrong. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor if you feel that you might have arthritis.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.