Arthritis

Arthritis: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

The term “arthritis” refers to a joints disease that is most commonly occurs when your joints become inflamed or degenerate (breakdown). This disease can lead to severe joint pain and adversely affect joint performance. 

The following body parts are the most affected by arthritis: 

  • Feet
  • Hands
  • Hips
  • Knee
  • Lower back

What is a joint, and how does it work? 

The point at which two or more bones are attached is known as joint, such as the fingers, knees, and shoulders. The joints allow bones to move freely within certain limits. The majority of joints in our body are surrounded by a vital capsule that contains a thin fluid to lubricate the joints. These capsules hold the bones firmly and get supported by ligaments that are pretty similar to flexible bands. A synovial membrane lubricates joints by forming a padded pocket of fluid. Moreover, the tendons attach the muscles to bones, while ligaments connect your bones.

Types of Arthritis:

In the medical world, arthritis refers to a wide range of conditions affecting joints. Following are some of the most common types of arthritis, such as:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

1. Osteoarthritis:

The term arthritis refers to the inflammation of joints. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, also called wear and tear arthritis. It is caused by the disruption of cartilage in joints and can affect any joint in the human body. This situation usually affects the weight-bearing joints like hips, knees, and spine. Moreover, the disease can also affect the fingers, thumb, neck, and large toe.

Aside from causing bone changes, osteoarthritis also deteriorates the connective tissues that connect muscles to bones and keep them together. The joint lining may become inflamed and swollen if the cartilage in a joint is seriously damaged.

Due to osteoarthritis, the cartilage in a joint becomes inflexible and loses its elasticity, putting it at risk of damaging the bones. 

Causes of Osteoarthritis (OA):

Many factors cause osteoarthritis, such as:

  • Genetics: Some individuals inherit a defective gene responsible for forming cartilage. As a result, the cartilage becomes defective and deteriorating joints more rapidly. A person born with abnormal joint structure is more probable to evolve OA. 
  • Obesity: A person who is obese is at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, and spine. Balancing a healthy weight or losing extravagance weight may help avert osteoarthritis or reduce its development once it has started. 
  • Injuries: Injuries also have a vital part in osteoarthritis. An athlete or any other person who suffers a knee injury may be at a greater risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. Moreover, people with critical back injuries are also more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the spine. 
  • Excess use of joints: Osteoarthritis is often caused by the overuse of certain joints. For example, knee bending and repetitive stress can damage a joint and lead to osteoarthritis.
  • Other factors: Rheumatoid arthritis, the second most usual form of arthritis, boosts the risk of osteoarthritis. OA can also be exacerbated by conditions like iron overload or extra growth hormone.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

As osteoarthritis progresses, its symptoms often become more severe. Osteoarthritis symptoms include:

  • Pain: Movement may cause pain in affected joints.
  • Rigidity/Stiffness: You may experience joint stiffness when you wake up or after being inactive.
  • Sensitivity: Sensitivity might be noticeable when light pressure is applied to the joint.
  • Reduced flexibility: It may be impossible to move your joint through its complete range of motion.
  • Grating sensation: When you use the joint, there may be a creaking sensation, and you may hear popping or crackling.
  • Bones spurs: Additional bone pieces, which are very hard, may develop around the affected joint.
  • Inflammation: An inflammation of the ligaments and tendons can cause swelling around the joint.

Treatment for Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis is not curable. A combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacologic treatments is typically effective in treating mild to moderate symptoms.

Treatments options include:

  • Topical pain medications and oral analgesics, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and NSAIDs
  •  Don’t be inactive for a long period
  •  Hot and cold therapies
  •  Physical therapy and occupational therapy
  • Lose weight; if overweight or obese
  • Management of diabetes and cholesterol
  • The use of braces, orthotics, shoe inserts, canes, or walkers
  • Injections of steroids or hyaluronic acid gel into the joint (Intraarticular injection therapies)
  • Alternative and complementary medicines, such as vitamins and supplements
  • Surgery may be the best option when other medical treatments fail to relieve pain or restore function, mainly with progressive OA.

The aims of treatment are:

  • Reduce pain and inflexibility in the joints
  • Delay further development of OA
  • Increase movement and function
  • Make patients’ lives more comfortable

Several factors determine the type of treatment regimen prescribed, involving the patient’s age, complete health, activities, occupation, and severeness of the condition.

1. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): 

Rheumatoid arthritis refers to an autoimmune disease that begins when your immune system malfunctions and starts attacking your tissues, which are supposed to protect you. Inflammation occurs in the synovium (joint lining) and can result in joint pain, redness, warmth, and swelling.

A person with RA may experience pain in the hands, wrists, or knees. As RA progresses, it may affect other body parts, such as your eyes, heart, lungs, skin, blood vessels, etc.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

The leading cause of the disease is not known yet. The immune system may be weakened by a virus or bacteria, causing it to attack your joints. According to some theories, smoking could cause rheumatoid arthritis in some individuals. Moreover, specific genetic patterns may cause RA. 

The more common occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis is found in women that may be due to estrogen, though this relationship has not been proven. It is also observed that rheumatoid arthritis can run in families since genes are also believed to play a small role in the disease.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA):

Signs of rheumatoid arthritis generally spread over a few weeks, but they can increase over a few days in some cases. Individuals may experience different symptoms that may be temporary or may change over time. 

Symptoms may worsen as your condition deteriorates, and flares may occur. Common symptoms are:

  • Pain: Rheumatoid arthritis usually causes throbbing and aching pain. The condition is typically worse in the morning and after prolonged inactivity.
  • Stiffness: It is common for RA to cause stiffness in joints. An individual whose hands are afflicted may not be able to bend their fingers or make a fist fully. Stiffness is usually worse in the morning or following an inactive period. The morning stiffness due to osteoarthritis often disappears within 30 minutes of waking up, but morning stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis usually persists for longer.
  • Inflammation and redness: When joints are afflicted by RA, their lining becomes sore, causing them to be inflamed and become hot and sensitive to the touch. RA patients may also have more general symptoms, such as:
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry eyes (when eyes are affected)
  • Weight loss
  • Sweating
  • Temperature

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

A joint injury can be treated with medications, rest, exercise, and surgery (in severe cases). Several factors will affect your treatment options, such as your age, complete health, medical history, and the severity of your condition. 

Medications:

Several medications are available to ease the signs of RA, such as joint pain, swelling, and inflammation. Some of these medications prevent or slow down the disease.

Joint pain and stiffness can be relieved by:

  • Painkillers that relieve inflammation, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
  • Creams to rub on skin to relieve pain.
  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone.
  • The pain reliever acetaminophen (Tylenol)

A doctor will prescribe strong medicines called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that prevent your immune system from attacking your joints. 

References:

  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12061-arthritis retrieved on March 17, 2022.
  • https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/arthritis/ retrieved on March 17, 2022. 
  • https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/osteoarthritis-basics retrieved on March 17, 2022. 
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc20350772#:~:text=Arthritis%20is%20the%20swelling%20and,are%20osteoarthritis%20and%20rheumatoid%20arthritis retrieved on March 17, 2022. 
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5599-osteoarthritis retrieved on March 17, 2022. 
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