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If you ask most folks what arthritis is, a good number will tell you that it’s a condition associated with older people. Well, this statement is not further from the truth, but there’s more to the condition than you might think of! There are many types of arthritis and anyone can get affected, from the young kids to the seniors.
In order to help you understand arthritis, we are going to get into details of this condition, looking at some crucial facts about it, some of the most common types, symptoms and diagnosis, treatment, and, of course, the care that you should observe.
So, what is arthritis? Well, simply put, arthritis is basically a joint disorder characterized by pain, swelling, and stiffness and aching. Even though its symptoms can come and go, they may progress over time and get worse, causing inability to conduct activities, chronic pain, and in worst case scenario, permanent joint changes.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, this condition affects over 50 million adults and a staggering 300,000 children. It doesn’t discriminate; people of all sexes, races and ages can suffer from the condition.
There are some indispensable facts about arthritis that we cannot ignore. Here’s a quick brief:
Just as mentioned above, arthritis is a term used to refer to various joint conditions. Although they are generally characterized by swelling, stiffness and pain, each of these types appear in different forms.
There are three major arthritis categories that are used to determine the actual type of the condition. These are:
There’s no single root cause for all arthritis types; however, there are a number of potential causes for specific types, including injury (leads to degenerative arthritis), inheritance (osteoarthritis), abnormal metabolism (pseudogout and gout), infections, and immune system dysfunction (rheumatoid arthritis). If you look closely at the causes of a number of arthritis types, you will realize that each one of them could be cause by several factors working together.
That said, there are risk factors (modifiable and non-modifiable) that have been proven to be associated with arthritis. These include age (risk tends to increase with age), sex (most types are common in women, with gout being associated more in men), genetics, overweight and obesity (onset of knee osteoarthritis), joint injuries, and occupation (those largely involved in squatting and knee bending).
Just as we have seen that the causes can differ from one type of arthritis to another, the location and pattern of arthritis symptoms can also vary significantly depending on type. However, there are four main warning signs and symptoms that you should look out for. Remember that rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, as well as those for other types, they can occur gradually or develop suddenly, and sometimes come and go.
Diagnosis of arthritis starts with a physical examination and may include imaging scans and blood tests in order to determine the exact type of arthritis. It is conducted by a qualified physician or an arthritis specialist called a rheumatologist.
The idea of treating arthritis is to manage pain and swelling (for inflammatory types) in order to try and restore normal joint function. This, according to the American College of Rheumatology, is done through a number of strategies, including: medications, occupational and physical therapies (especially for arthritis in fingers and hands), joint and splints assistive aids, patient support and education, weight loss, and surgery where joint correction and replacement is needed.
When it comes to arthritis medication, inflammatory drugs are prescribed such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and corticosteroids, biologics, DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), and analgesics to reduce pain.
Arthritis diet is also a crucial aspect of treatment as some foods help reduce inflammation in the joints, allowing more motion and improved quality of life. These kinds of foods are found in what is called a Mediterranean diet. They include fish, fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, beans, whole grains, and olive oil.