Arthritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
Arthritis is a common disease that affects millions of people worldwide. The condition is capable of greatly hindering patients’ movement ability. There are many types of arthritis, each of which is more popular among certain groups of people. As the disease is long-lasting and difficult to eradicate, the focus of most traditional treatments is to relieve pain, limit relapse and prevent joint deformity. However, as the healthcare industry develops, patients now have more and more effective options that may bring an end to their suffering.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a serious condition that causes inflammation in one or more joints (i.e: the places that connect two bones). As a result, the patient’s joints become very painful, swollen, and stiff.
Types of Arthritis
Up to now, more than 100 types of arthritis have been identified. Among them, the 2 most common ones are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
- Osteoarthritis affects the articular cartilage’s lining, hence causing pain and difficulty in movement. In the case of severe inflammation, the bones are exposed to friction and moved away from their normal position. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in the joints of the hands, spine, knees, hips. The disease is more common among those in the middle age (i.e: over 40 years old).
- Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the immune system attacks the body’s connective tissues, which results in joint inflammation and pain. The condition can occur at any age and is often associated with fatigue and stiffness after rest.
Signs & Symptoms
What are the common symptoms of Arthritis?
Overall, the most common symptoms of Arthritis include:
- Joint pain, even when the patient is not moving.
- Joint stiffness.
- Redness in the skin area around the joint.
- A decrease in the range of motion.
Most of the time, arthritis symptoms show up gradually as the disease progresses over time.
When should I contact the doctor?
If you/ your relatives exhibit any of the above-mentioned signs, contact your doctor immediately. As each person’s case is different, it is advisable that you consult with an experienced doctor as soon as possible to figure out the best solution.
What causes Arthritis?
Arthritis may be the result of an inflammation in the cartilage tissue. As cartilage plays the role of absorbing pressure and protecting your joints while moving, a decrease in the amount of cartilage tissue may cause arthritis and expose your joint to outer shock.
Osteoarthritis involves damage to the joint cartilage. This, in turn, makes patients feel painful and limit their movements.
In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the synovial fluid, which acts as a covering layer for the entire joint. This process can then destroy cartilage and bone in the joint.
Who are at risk of Arthritis?
Arthritis is more commonly found in those over 65 years old. However, children and younger people may also suffer from it. In addition, women and overweight people are more at risk of getting the disease.
What increases the risk of Arthritis?
There are many factors that contribute to the development of arthritis.
- Aging. The older you are, the higher the risk of arthritis.
- Sex. For unknown reasons, women are more likely to be affected by the condition than men.
- Obesity. Overweight people are at a higher risk of arthritis. The reason is that excessive weight of muscle, fat, fluid, etc. can cause unbearable pressure on the joints. Additionally, the fat tissue may release some inflammation-inducing proteins.
- Injuries. Those with previous joint injuries you may have arthritis when they reach their middle age. On the other hand, those whose job includes tasks that constantly pressures the joints are more susceptible to the disease.
Diagnosis & Treatment
How is Arthritis diagnosed?
For the purpose of diagnosis, the doctor may request one of the following tests:
- Physical exam: The purpose is to examine the fluid around the affected joints, inflammation and the joints’ range of motion.
- Blood tests: By checking your blood and joint fluid’s inflammation levels, the doctor may be able to determine which kind of arthritis you suffer from.
- Computerized tomography (CT): In this procedure, the doctor uses an X-ray scanner to produce cross-sectional images of your internal bone structure.
- Magnetic resonance (MRI): This procedure combines radio waves with a strong magnet magnetic field to produce more detailed images of soft tissue such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
Treatment for Arthritis
As Arthritis is a chronic disease, the long-term treatment aim is to reduce pain and prevent joint deformity.
- Medications. Painkillers such as Corticoid can be taken to control the pain. However, the effect of most painkillers are temporary and may be harmful to your overall health in the long run.
- Surgery. In extreme cases, the doctor may request surgery to replace your joint with another matching one.
- Joint fusion. In this procedure, your bones’ ends are locked together until they recover and merge together.
- Physical therapy. Exercises that strengthen the muscles around the joints are crucial to most treatment.
- Stem cell therapy can be used to manage the symptoms of arthritis. One injected into the patient’s body, stem cells can help reduce inflammation, reduce pain and increase synovial fluid production.
How to prevent Arthritis?
Before resorting to medical treatment, it is advisable that arthritis patients practice these habits to better manage their condition:
- Regular exercises. These will help improve your muscle and joint strength. Among exercises you can take, swimming is one of the best choices, as it does not apply too much pressure on the joints. Despite the importance of physical exercises, regular breaks are essential to recover your body and avoid worsening the condition.
- Diet. As obesity is one of the main causes of arthritis, a healthy diet is crucial to limit the disease’s risk and progress. Generally, the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants (e.g: fruits, vegetables, herbs) can help reduce inflammation. Fish and nuts are also good components of an arthritis diet. On the other hand, avoid fried foods, dairy products, and excessive meat.
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