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What is Arthritis?

What is Arthritis?

Are you searching “what is arthritis?” This post can help you to further understand what arthritis is, and what steps you can take to help prevent or slow the onset of arthritis. Treatments can vary depending on what type of arthritis it is. The main goal of arthritis treatments is to cut down symptoms and enhanced quality of life.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is not that uncommon but is not fully understood. Clearly, “arthritis” is not a single disease; it is a straightforward way of referring to joint disease or joint pain. There are more than 100 individual types of arthritis and accompanying conditions. People of all races, ages and sexes can and do have arthritis. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United Sates. At least 50 million adults and around 300,000 children have some sort of arthritis. It is typically common among women and occurs more often as people age.

Some common arthritis symptoms include joint swelling, pain, decreased range of motion and stiffness. These symptoms may come and go. They can range from mild or moderate and in some cases severe. They may be constant for years, but may progress or worsen over time. Acute arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do day to day activities and make it challenging to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can also cause long lasting joint changes. These changes can be visible, such as distorted finger joints, but more often the damage can only be seen by X-ray. Some types of arthritis can also affect the heart, kidneys, eyes, lungs, and skin as well as the joints.

There Are Various Types Of Arthritis:

Degenerative Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. When the cartilage between the bones wears down, bone rubs against bone, causing swelling, stiffness and pain. Over time, joints lose their strength and pain can become chronic. Some risk factors can include excess weight, family history, age or a previous injury (ACL tear, for example).

When the joint symptoms of osteoarthritis are mild or moderate, they can be handled by:

  • Balancing activities with rest
  • Using hot and cold therapy
  • Regular physical activities
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Strengthening the muscles around the joints
  • Using devices for assistance
  • Taking OTC pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Avoiding excessive repeated movements

If joint symptoms become severe, causing limited mobility and more importantly, affecting quality of life, some of the above strategies may be helpful, but joint replacement may also be necessary.

Osteoarthritis can hindered by staying active, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, and avoiding injury and repetitive movements.

Inflammatory Arthritis

A strong, healthy immune system is very protective. It produces internal inflammation to get rid of infection and hamper disease. But sometimes the immune system can go wonky, erroneously attacking the joints with rampant inflammation, possibly causing joint erosion and may even damage internal organs, the eyes and some other parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are some cases of inflammatory arthritis. Researchers believe that a mixture of genetics and environmental elements can cause autoimmunity. Smoking cigarettes is a good example of an environmental risk factor that can trigger rheumatoid arthritis in people with particular genetics.

With autoimmune and inflammatory types of arthritis, earlier diagnosis and aggressive treatment are very important factors. Hindering disease activity can help decrease or even prevent permanent joint damage from happening. Remission is the objective and may be attained through the use of one or more medications known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or DMARDs. The main goal of treatment is to decrease pain, increase function, and prevent additional joint damage.

Infectious Arthritis

Bacteria, virus or fungus can intrude the joint and trigger inflammation. Some examples of organisms that can infect joints are salmonella and shigella (food poisoning or food contamination), Chlamydia and gonorrhea (STDs) and hepatitis C (a blood to blood infection, usually through shared needles or blood transfusions). In some cases, prompt treatment with antibiotics may clear up the joint infection, but sometimes the arthritis can become chronic.

Metabolic Arthritis

Uric acid is created as the body breaks down purines, a substance found in human cells and also in many foods. Some people have higher levels of uric acid because they naturally generates more than what is needed or the body can’t get rid of the uric acid fast enough. In some people, the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of severe joint pain, or a gout bombardment. Gout can come and go in bouts or, if the uric acid levels aren’t decreased, it can become chronic, causing continuing pain and disability.

Diagnosing Arthritis

Arthritis diagnosis generally begins with a primary care physician, who will perform a physical examination, blood tests and imaging scans to help decide what type of arthritis it is. An arthritis specialist, or rheumatologist, should be involved if the diagnosis is undetermined or if the arthritis may be inflammatory. Rheumatologists generally manage ongoing treatment for inflammatory arthritis, gout and other complex cases. Orthopedic surgeons can perform joint surgery, as well as joint replacements. When the arthritis involves other body parts or systems, other specialists, such as dermatologists, ophthalmologists, or dentists, will also be added into the health care team.

What Can Be Done About Arthritis?

There are many steps that can be taken to maintain joint function, mobility and quality of life. Learning more about the disease and treatment options, making time for physical activity and continuing a healthy weight is essential. Arthritis is a generally misunderstood disease. The Arthritis Foundation is the only non-profit organization committed to aiding all people with arthritis.

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