Arthritis is a common disease but is often misunderstood. Arthritis is not any single disease; it is just a term to denote joint disease or joint pain. There are over hundred kinds of arthritis and associated conditions.
This disease afflicts people of all races, sexes, and ages. It is the leading factor behind disability in the USA. It is common with females and also with advancing age.
The symptoms of arthritis are the pain, swelling, reduced range of motion and stiffness. Typically symptoms may go and come. They can be severe, moderate or mild. They can stay the same over the years but can be advance or worsen over time, like in the case of arthritis knee pain.
A Severe form of arthritis can cause chronic pain, hindrance in doing daily activities and make activities like climbing stairs or be walking difficult. This disease can cause permanent changes in joints. Such changes may be visible like knobby fingers but most damage can be detected only via X-rays. Certain types of arthritis can impact lungs, eyes, heart, skin, and kidneys, apart from the joints.
It is also called as Osteoarthritis. In this, the cushioning substance at the end of bones called as cartilage wears away, causing the bone to rub against bone resulting in stiffness, swelling, and pain. With a passage of time, joints can lose strength and result in chronic pain. There are some risk factors like family history, obesity, and previous injury.
When symptoms are mild, osteoarthritis can be managed by:
- Mixing periods of rest with activity
- Regular physical activity
- Using cold and hot therapies.
- Controlling body weight
- Using help of assistive devices
- Strengthening of muscles around joints.
- Avoiding repetitive motion
- Taking pain medication or anti-inflammatory drugs.
In the case symptoms are severe and cannot be managed by above methods, the doctor may recommend joint surgery like hip or knee replacement surgery.
When the immune system is healthy, it protects the body. But it can go awry by attacking joints with uncontrolled inflammation, causing erosion of joints and damage to organs like eyes, skin, etc. Two examples of inflammatory arthritis are Psoriatic arthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers attribute auto-immunity to both environmental factors and genetics. For instance, one environmental factor is smoking.
With this type of arthritis, early diagnosis and strong treatment are critical factors to combat the disease. This can prevent or minimize joint damage. Remission of symptoms may be achieved by medication like Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs). The aim is to avoid further damage, improve function and reduce pain.
There are other less common types of arthritis like Infectious Arthritis and Metabolic arthritis.
How to Diagnose Arthritis
Diagnosis of this disease begins with a Primary Care Physician. She does a physical examination and may order imaging scans and blood tests to identify the type of arthritis. Next, one must consult an arthritis specialist like a rheumatologist when the diagnosis is uncertain or in the case of inflammatory arthritis. Another intervention is via Orthopaedic surgeon who will perform joint replacement surgery as a last resort for conditions like arthritis knee pain relief. If arthritis has spread to other parts of the body, other specialists need to be consulted like dermatologists (skin), ophthalmologists (eyes), dentists (teeth), etc.
These are some aspects of the disease called as arthritis.