What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more of the joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which usually worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are the most common signs of arthritis. Your range of motion may also decrease and you may experience redness in the skin around the joint. Many people with arthritis notice that their symptoms are getting worse in the morning.
In the case of RA, you may feel tired or experience loss of appetite due to the inflammation caused by the activity of the immune system. You may also become anemic—meaning your red blood cell count is declining—or have a slight fever. Severe RA may cause joint deformity if left untreated.
Cartilage is a firm but flexible connective tissue within your joints. It protects the joints by absorbing the pressure and shock you create when you move and stress them. A reduction in the normal amount of cartilage tissue causes some forms of arthritis.
Normal wear and tear cause OA, one of the most common types of arthritis. Infection or joint injury may exacerbate this natural breakdown of cartilage tissue. If you have a family history of the disease, your risk of developing OA may be higher.
An autoimmune disorder is another common form of arthritis, RA. It occurs when your body's immune system attacks the body's tissues. These attacks affect the synovium, a soft tissue in the joints that produces a fluid that nourishes the cartilage and lubricates the joints.
RA is a Synovium disease that will invade and destroy a joint. Eventually, it can lead to the destruction of bone and cartilage inside the joint.
The exact cause of the attacks on the immune system is unknown. But scientists have discovered genetic markers that increase your risk of developing RA by five.
How is it diagnosed?
Seeing your primary care physician is a good first step if you don't know who to look for a diagnosis of arthritis. They will perform a physical exam to check for fluid around the joints, warm or red joints, and a limited range of joint motion. If necessary, your doctor may refer you to a specialist.
If you have severe symptoms, you may choose to schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist first. This can lead to a faster diagnosis and treatment.
Extracting and analyzing the levels of inflammation in your blood and joint fluids can help your doctor determine what kind of arthritis you have. Blood tests for specific types of antibodies such as anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrulline peptide), RF (rheumatoid factor) and ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) are also common diagnostic tests.
Doctors commonly use imaging scans such as X-ray, MRI, and CT scans to produce images of your bones and cartilage. This is so that they can rule out other causes of your symptoms, such as bone spurs.
How it can be treated?
The main goal of treatment is to reduce the amount of pain you have and prevent further damage to the joints. In terms of controlling pain, you'll learn what works best for you. Some people find that heating pads and ice packs are soothing. Others use mobility aid devices, such as canes or walkers, to help take the pressure off sore joints.
It is also important to improve your joint function. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of treatment methods to achieve the best results.
A number of different types of drugs used to treat arthritis:
- Analgesics, such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), are effective in the management of pain but do not help to reduce inflammation.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) and salicylates, help to control pain and inflammation. Salicylates may thin the blood, so they should be used very carefully with additional blood-thinning medications.
- Menthol or capsaicin creams block the transmission of pain signals from the joints.
- Immunosuppressants such as prednisone or cortisone help to reduce inflammation.
Surgery to replace a joint with an artificial one may be an option. This type of surgery is most commonly performed to replace the hips and knees. If your arthritis is most severe in your fingers or wrists, a joint fusion may be performed by your doctor. In this procedure, the ends of your bones will be locked together until they heal and become one.
Physical therapy involving exercises that help strengthen muscles around the affected joint is a key component of arthritis treatment.
How can it be prevented?
Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight reduce the risk of developing OA and may reduce symptoms if you already have it.
It is important to eat a healthy diet for weight loss. Choosing a diet with a lot of antioxidants, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, can help reduce inflammation. Other inflammation-reducing food includes fish and nuts. Make an arthritis diet chart that includes foods such as
- Fatty fish
Foods that can be minimized or avoided if you have arthritis include fried foods, processed foods, dairy products, and high intakes of meat.
Some studies also suggest that gluten antibodies may be present in people with RA. A gluten-free diet can improve symptoms and disease progression. The 2015 study also recommends a gluten-free diet for all people who are diagnosed with undifferent connective tissue disease.
Regular exercise keeps your joints flexible. Swimming is often a good form of exercise for people with arthritis because it doesn't put pressure on your joints like running and walking. Staying active is important, but you should also be sure to rest when you need it and avoid overexerting yourself.
At-home exercises you can try to include:
- Head tilting, neck rotation, and other exercises to relieve pain in your neck.
- Toe bends and thumb bend to ease the pain in your hands
- Leg lifts, hamstring stretches, and other easy knee arthritis exercises.