Often in life, we find ourselves experiencing joint pains which normally are temporary and usually go away automatically or can be relieved using painkillers and pain relief gels. The problem arises when the pain instead of getting relieved, starts to get worse with time. Then the first term that will hit any individual in this condition will be “Is it arthritis?”
We have heard about arthritis many a time, but what is it that makes arthritis such a major concern. Here’s everything you need to know about arthritis and how to protect yourself from getting into the clutches of this disease.
What actually is arthritis?
Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints of the body. A joint refers to the point of meeting two or more bones. To prevent the damage to the bones due to friction caused by them rubbing together, the joints are cushioned by soft tissues, some joints have a pocket of synovial fluid that is padded, known as the synovial membrane.
The most commonly afflicted sites of arthritis include joints of
– Lower back
When a person has arthritis one or more joints get swelled/inflamed and become weak and break down.
What are the types of arthritis and what are their causes?
Arthritis is an umbrella term housing 100 plus different conditions of joints however the two main types of arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
– Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most commonly prevalent form of arthritis. In this condition, the cartilage, which is the soft tissue located at the ends of the joints where the two bones meet, gets damaged. This exposes the bones to each other and during any activity involving the joint, the bones grind against each other causing pain and reducing the range of motion.
– Rheumatoid arthritis: In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system starts to attack and damage the lining of the joint capsule which is a membrane that encapsulates the joint parts. The attack causes the lining(synovial membrane) to become swollen and eventually can also destroy the cartilage and bone present in the joint.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
As we know arthritis is a broad term housing multiple conditions, but there are certain symptoms that occur in most cases. They might be mild in one case and severe in other cases but their presence will be seen.
– Pain in performing activities related to joints
– Stiffness of joint
– Inflammation of joints
– Sensation of warmth
Risk factors for arthritis
Certain factors if present increases the chances of one getting affected by arthritis.
– Joint Injury In the past: Injury incurred to a joint while playing sports or due to an accident, makes the joint vulnerable to arthritis in the future.
– Obesity: Having excess body weight puts strain on the joints especially the knees and spine hence making them more prone to arthritis.
– Gender: Men are more likely to develop gout and other types of arthritis whereas women are more prone to developing rheumatoid arthritis.
– Age: Just as is the case with almost every disease, the risk of one getting affected with arthritis increases by manifolds.
– Family History: There are some types of arthritis that run in families, in that case, if the parents and siblings have arthritis, the person is most likely to develop it in the near future.
Methods of diagnosis of arthritis
The primary mode of diagnosis involves a thorough investigation of the joint pain along with a report of the history of any such events in the family history. A physical examination will be performed in which the range of motion of the joints will be tested, along with the search for areas of swelling around the joints.
Further tests involve imaging tests which might include any of the following
– X-rays: X-rays can reveal cartilage loss, bone deterioration, and bone spurs by using low doses of radiation to see bone. The main use of X-rays is for measuring the progress of the disease.
– Tomography via computer (CT): CT scanners use a combination of X-rays from various angles to provide cross-sectional views of inside structures. CT scans can see both the bone and the soft tissues around it.
– MRI Scans: MRIs provide more accurate pictures of soft tissues such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments by coupling radio waves with a powerful magnetic field.
– Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves are used to image soft tissues, cartilage, and fluid-containing structures around joints with this method (bursae). Ultrasound can also be used to guide the positioning of needles for extracting joint fluid or injecting drugs into the joint.
While a blood test can’t actually be used to detect if one has arthritis, if the case suspected is of rheumatoid arthritis, or gout, undergoing a blood test may help in proper diagnosis by providing an insight into the levels of uric acid or inflammatory proteins.
Methods of treatment of arthritis
The main problem is there is no actual cure for arthritis, but there are methods of treatments that can help in managing the condition and intern the overall health.
Non-surgical methods of treatment include
– Medication: Anti-inflammatory and pain relief drugs can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Biologics are drugs that target the immune system’s inflammatory reaction, they are prescribed for people suffering from rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis
– Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help one increase their strength, range of motion, and overall mobility. Professional therapists can prescribe what modifications are to be done in the daily activities to minimize the discomfort caused due to arthritis.
– Injections: Cortisone injections can help alleviate pain and inflammation in the joints for a short time. A medication called viscosupplementation may help with arthritis in some joints, such as the knee. It involves direct injection of lubricant in the joints to aid smooth motion.
Surgical methods of treatment involve
– Joint replacement: In this procedure, the damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint. This procedure is most commonly used for hip and knee joints.
– Joint repair: For certain cases, the surfaces of bones in direct contact can be smoothed and realigned. This relieves the pain and improves the functioning of the joint.
– Joint fusion: This procedure is carried out for small joints eg the joints in the wrists. This method involves removing the ends of both the bones in direct contact and locking them together until they join as one.
– Heat and Cold: The use of heating pads or ice packs help relieve pain caused due to arthritis.
– Exercises: Regular light exercises help keep the joints supple, the best exercise for arthritis will be swimming as water prevents sudden movement of joints and buoyancy reduces stress on the joints.
– Losing Weight: Cutting down the extra weight reduces the stress imposed on the joints and hence reduces the damage and pain due to arthritis.
– Avoiding tobacco and its products
– Doing light weight exercises
– Maintaining body weight at healthy levels