ARTHRITIS: Causes, Prevention and Treatment Options

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Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints, characterized by warmth, pain, restriction of movement and redness of the overlying skin of the attacked joint(s). It is the most common cause of human disability and severe limitations in daily functions. Risk factors of arthritis include prior joint trauma, obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

Arthritis is a well-known joint disorder featuring inflammation that affects the comfort, movement and posture of approximately 350 million people globally. It is a disease of public health importance, attacking people of different ages, races and genders at varying severity. Arthritis is predominantly a disease of the elderly (65 years and older) especially women, but children can also be affected. The major complaint by individuals who have arthritis is joint pain. Arthritic pain is often constant and may be localized to the affected joint(s). The pain from arthritis is due to inflammation that occurs around the joint, damage to the joint from disease, daily wear and tear of joint, joints fatigue and muscle strains caused by forceful movements against stiff painful joints.

THE IMPACTS OF ARTHRITIS

It is common in advanced arthritis for significant secondary changes to occur with detrimental impacts on the life, physical activities and social roles of people. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability and severe limitations in function on a daily basis. Absenteeism and frequent visits to the physician are common in individuals who have arthritis. Arthritis makes it very difficult for individuals to be physically active; and many become home bound, contributing to an increased risk of obesity, high cholesterol or vulnerability to heart diseases. Individuals with arthritis are also at increased risk of depression, which may be associated with fear of worsening symptoms.

FEATURES OF MAJOR TYPES OF ARTHRITIS IN PARTS OF THE BODY

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It can affect both the larger and the smaller joints of the body, including the hands, feet, hip, head and knee. Osteoarthritis typically affects the weight-bearing joints, such as the back, spine and pelvis. The disease is essentially acquired from daily wear and tear of the joint; however, osteoarthritis can also occur as a result of injury. Osteoarthritis begins in the cartilage and eventually causes the two opposing bones to erode into each other. Initially, the condition starts with minor pain during activities, but soon, the pain can be continuous even in a state of rest. The pain can be debilitating and prevent one from doing some routine activities.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a joint disorder which manifests when the body’s own immune system starts to attack body tissues. The attack is not only directed at the joint but to many other parts of the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, most damages occur to the joint lining and cartilage which eventually results in erosion of two opposing bones. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the synovial lining of joints of the fingers, feet, wrist, hips, ankles, knees, neck, shoulders and elbows. This joint defect could make the joints to be swollen, painful and stiff. It could cause damage to the ligaments and erosion of the bone and tendon, leading to joint deformity and tendon rupture. The disease is symmetrical (appears on both sides of the body) and can lead to severe deformity in a few years if not treated.

WHO IS MORE PRONE TO ARTHRITIS?

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is most commonly a disease of the elderly. More than 30 percent of women have some degree of osteoarthritis by age 65. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs mostly in people aged 20 and above. In the aged and children, pain might not be the main presenting feature; the aged patient simply moves less and the infant patient hardly uses the affected limb. In children, the disorder can present with a skin rash, fever, pain, disability and limitations in daily activities. Often, it is not clear why rheumatoid arthritis occurs.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ARTHRITIS

Regardless of the type of arthritis, the common signs and symptoms for all arthritis disorders include varied levels of joint stiffness especially in the morning, inability to use the hand or walk freely, malaise and a feeling of tiredness, unintentional weight loss, poor sleep, muscle aches and pains, tenderness, difficulty moving the joint (limited range of motion) and muscle weakness. Other signs and symptoms of arthritis are severe unexplained joint pain that persists beyond 3 days, significant inflammation or swelling of joint, loss of muscle flexibility, decreased aerobic fitness, redness of the skin around a joint and warmth around joints.

ARTHRITIS CAN BE AVOIDED

Some of these practices should be observed to avoid or reduce the effect of arthritis on people of all ages especially the elderly and vulnerable groups. People, especially the elderly should avoid painful, excessive and repeated motions that adversely affect joints. Overweight which could worsen joint pain in the legs and feet should be avoided. Taking nutritional supplements without the advice of health professionals should be avoided because some supplements can interfere with some arthritis drugs. It is important to avoid preventable pressure and stress that can cause wear and tear of cartilage and joints especially during pregnancy. Environments that could cause infection particularly from bacteria or virus that attack joints should not be allowed. Staying in one position for too long or movements that exert extraordinary stress on your sore joints should be avoided.

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES THAT RELIEVE ARTHRITIS

If arthritis signs and symptoms are noticed, patients should visit health care centers promptly for medical examination and follow-up with appropriate health professionals. Lifestyle modifications including guided exercise and weight control measures are relevant in the management of arthritis. Exercises prescribed by a physical therapist for improving muscle strength, endurance and flexibility; and training for balance are good. Yoga and Tai Chi under the advice of a health care professional can help to improve overall health and well-being of people suffering from arthritis.

People are encouraged to use books, magazines and online resources to learn more about arthritis and stay up to date on new developments in medicine and treatment options. Arthritis patients should always take medication as prescribed by their medical experts and report any changes in their health or any side effects that they may experience. Under expert advice and supervision, people can use things like special garden trowels, elastic shoelaces, foot warmers, electric jar openers, massaging heating pads, one-touch table lamps, electric toothbrushes, reacher aids, arthritis bras, long-handled brushes and combs to reduce painful joint movements and relieve arthritis symptoms. Meditation (45 minutes a day) and relaxation (average of 2 hours a day excluding normal 8 to 10 hours night sleep) help to reduce muscle tension that accompanies arthritis. Patients can massage affected joints with shear butter to relieve arthritic pain by increasing blood flow and warmth in a stressed area.

People are advised to eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables that contain essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. The examples of a healthy diet are fish (salmon, mackerel and herring), flaxseed, rapeseed (canola) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, coconut, coconut oil and walnuts.

 

MANAGEMENT OF MAJOR TYPES OF ARTHRITIS

There are over 100 different forms of arthritis. The most common forms we will concentrate on are osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) and rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune joint disorder).

Osteoarthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, cannot be cured, but one can prevent the condition from worsening. Physical therapy to strengthen muscles and joints is very helpful. Pain medications are widely required by individuals with osteoarthritis. For some patients, weight loss can reduce the stress on the joints. When the disease is far advanced and the pain is continuous, surgery may be an indispensable option. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, the joint replacement does help many individuals with osteoarthritis. Medications which decrease pain can help reduce inflammation in the joints. Moreover, by decreasing inflammation, the joint damage may be retarded.

Generally, the goal of treatment is to reduce pain, improve function and prevent further damage of joints. The underlying cause cannot usually be cured. Medically there is no cure for either rheumatoid or osteoarthritis. Treatment options vary depending on the type of arthritis and include physical therapy, lifestyle modification (including exercise and weight control), orthopedic bracing and medications. Joint replacement surgery may be required in eroding forms of arthritis. The drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis can significantly improve quality of life in the short term. In rare cases, surgery may be required to replace joints but there is no cure for the illness.

However, with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, many individuals can still enjoy a decent quality of life. Generally, rheumatoid arthritis is worse in the morning and associated with stiffness in the early stages and patients often have no symptoms after a morning bath. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, tends to be worse after exercise.
Parts of taking an active role in managing your arthritis are to know its symptoms and management options. An informed decision made with your doctor can be one of the best to help get effective symptom relief and prevent irreversible damage and disability. This is why this article is here for you and your relations.

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