ARTHRITIS? Signs and symptoms, Prevention and Impact on the most vulnerable


Arthritis is a well-known form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints. It is 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 affects the comfort, movement and posture of approximately 350 million people globally. It is a disease of public health importance, common among people of different ages, races and genders at varying severity. Arthritis is predominantly a disease of the elderly (65 years and older) especially women. Also children can 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 is due to inflammation that occurs around the joint, damage to the joint from disease and daily wear and tear of joint.  Joints fatigue and muscle strains caused by forceful movements against stiff painful joints are added factors.


In advanced arthritis, significant secondary changes 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 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. It keeps sufferers at home, contributing to increased risk of obesity, high cholesterol or vulnerability to heart diseases. Also, arthritis increases risk of depression, which may be associated with fear of worsening symptoms.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It affects both the large 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. Also, it occurs 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 it 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. This eventually results in erosion of two opposing bones. This arthritis often affect the synovial lining of joints of the fingers, feet, wrist, hips, ankles, knees, neck, shoulders and elbows. The defect could make the joints to be swollen, painful and stiff. It could cause damage to the ligaments. It erodes 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 few years if not treated.


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 skin rashes, fever, pain, disability and limitations in daily activities. Often, it is not clear why rheumatoid arthritis occurs.


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



These should be practiced to avoid or reduce the effect of arthritis on vulnerable groups of all ages. 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. Some supplements can interfere with some arthritis drugs. It is important to avoid pressure and stress that wears and tears cartilage and joints especially during pregnancy. Environments that promote infection particularly from bacteria or virus that attack joints should not be allowed. Do not stay in one position for too long.  Movements that exert extraordinary stress on sore joints should be avoided.


If arthritis signs and symptoms are noticed, patients should visit hospital for prompt and appropriate medical examination and follow-up. 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, flexibility and balance are good. Yoga and Tai Chi under the advice of health care professionals can help to improve overall health and well-being of patients.

People are encouraged to use books, magazines and online resources to learn more about arthritis. They are necessary for update on new developments in medicine and treatment options. 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 and elastic shoelaces.  Foot warmers, electric jar openers, massaging heating pads and one-touch table lamps are helpful.  Also electric toothbrushes, reacher-aids, arthritis bras, long-handled brushes and combs are recommended. They help to reduce painful joint movements and relieve arthritis symptoms. Meditation (45 minutes daily) and relaxation (average of 2 hours daily excluding normal 8 to 10 hours night sleep) help to reduce arthritis-induced muscle tension. Massage affected joints with shear butter to relieve pain, and increase blood flow and warmth.

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


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 can be prevented 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. Treatment options vary depending on the type of arthritis. They 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 that treat rheumatoid arthritis can significantly improve quality of life in the short term. In rare cases, surgery may be required to replace joints since there is no cure for the illness. However, with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, many individuals still enjoy decent quality of life. Generally, rheumatoid arthritis is worse in the morning.  This is associated with stiffness in the early stages and patients often show no symptoms after morning bath.

Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, tends to be worse after exercise.
Parts of taking an active role in managing arthritis are to know its symptoms and management options. An informed decision made with your doctor can be of best help to get effective symptom relief. It helps to prevent irreversible damage and disability. This is why this article is here for you and your relations.



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