What is Arthritis?
Arthritis, simply put, is an inflammation of the joints. The two most commonly known forms of arthritis that you may be diagnosed with consist of a mechanical form and a systemic form. The mechanical type, Osteoarthritis, is known as normal wear and tear of the joints and affects everyone after a certain age.
One of the most commonly known forms of a systemic form of arthritis is Rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory arthritis, and is an autoimmune disorder.
There are over 100 specific kinds of arthritis that can affect your body. Some other forms of arthritis that may affect you are:
- Metabolic arthritis: The condition known as Gout is the commonly known form of metabolic arthritis. This occurs when too much uric acid is in the cells, causing painful, sharp crystals to form within the joint. Diet is a huge factor of treatment and prevention of Gout. Most often, Gout will affect the big toe joint.
- Infectious arthritis, also may be called Septic Arthritis: Infectious arthritis occurs when a virus or bacterium enter the body and makes it way to a joint, causing inflammation.
- Reactive arthritis: this is another form of Infectious Arthritis; however, the precipitating infection is in another part of the body and not directly in the joints as in Septic Arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis: linked with Psoriasis of the skin, but in rare cases the skin may not be affected
Signs of Arthritis
Signs of an arthritic condition in the body are:
- Painful and/or stiff joints
- Difficulty moving a joint or a loss of range of motion
- Sleeping difficulties
- Bone spurs and nodules
- Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet if nerves are affected
- General malaise
- Red, burning eyes
- Skin rash that comes and goes along with joint pain
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition. This means that your immune system does not function properly and mistakenly thinks there is an infection happening in your body when there is not. In the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the malfunctioning immune system most commonly attacks the joints but it can affect other parts of the body. This condition affects younger people as well as the older population. With this condition, smaller joints are generally affected first including the fingers and toes. But in more advanced cases, it can affect the shoulders, neck, back, ankles, hips, and knees.
Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis will usually present bilaterally, meaning that it affects both sides of the body, as opposed to Osteoarthritis which generally only affects a joint or joints on one side of the body. Some signs and symptoms of RA may be:
- Unpredictable pain and swelling of joints which may come and go
- Deformity of joints
- Loss of range of motion in joints which is generally worst in the morning or after a period of prolonged inactivity
- Appearance of nodules on or near the joint(s) affected
- Fatigue and fever
- Loss of appetite
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degeneration of the joints. If you are over the age of about 50 years-old, you most likely have some degree of osteoarthritis affecting one or multiple joints. The severity of this condition will be dependent on how you have lived your life, how much activity you engaged in causing a wearing down of the cushioning between bones of the joints. Most often, osteoarthritis will affect the knees, hips, spine, and hands. However, osteoarthritis may affect any joint in the body.
Signs of Osteoarthritis
Some signs and symptoms of OA may involve any or all of the following:
- Pain and swelling which worsens with movement
- Stiffness in the joints which may be worse upon waking in the morning
- Loss of range on motion
- Sensation of grinding or grating in the joint
- Bone spurs
- Feeling of instability in the joint
Treatment for Arthritis
The intervention methods depend on how much pain and dysfunction your condition is causing. They may range from no treatment at all to a total joint replacement in the most advanced cases. Treatment options include:
- NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs)
- Cortisone injections
- A course of antibiotics in the case of Infectious Arthritis
- Change in diet
- Physical therapy
- Weight loss
- Splints, braces, or walking assistive devices
- Joint replacement surgery