Arthritis pain can be frustrating. Nagging and crippling arthritis pain can continue day after day. How much happier would you be if you could stop your arthritis pain right now and feel great all day? Knowing the nature of the disease can really bring you the right answers.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis comprises over 100 different diseases and conditions. The word arthritis means "joint inflammation". When joints are inflamed, it causes pain and usually also limits movement of the joints that are affected. For many people, arthritis pain has a large impact on their life. Arthritis is second only to heart disease as a cause of work disability. Arthritis limits everyday activities such as walking, dressing and bathing for more than 16 million Americans. Each year, arthritis results in 750,000 hospitalizations and 36 million outpatient visits. Arthritis is not just an old person's disease. Nearly two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than 65 years including nearly 300,000 children. Arthritis affects children and people of all racial and ethnic groups but is more common among women and older adults.
The disease can affect different parts of the body. Two of the most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the joint lining becomes inflamed as part of the body's immune system activity. RA is one of the most serious and disabling types, affecting mostly women. Rheumatoid arthritis is two to three times more common in women than in men and generally strikes between the ages of 20 and 50. Both sides of the body are usually affected at the same time. Symptoms of RA differ from person to person but can generally include:
- Joint tenderness, warmth, and swelling.
- Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 1 hour in the morning or after a long rest.
- Joint inflammation in the wrist and finger joints closest to the hand.
- Fatigue, an occasional fever, and a general sense of not feeling well.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage that covers the ends of bones in the joint deteriorates, causing pain and loss of movement as bone begins to rub against bone. OA commonly affects the joints of the fingers, knees, hips, and spine. Osteoarthritis is more common in older people because they have been using their joints longer. Using the joints to do the same task over and over or simply using them over time can make osteoarthritis worse. Younger people can also get osteoarthritis. Athletes are at risk because they use their joints so much. People who have jobs that require the same movement over and over are also at risk. Injuries to a joint increase the risk of arthritis in the joint later on. Excess weight can accelerate arthritis in the knees, hips and spine. The most common symptom of Osteoarthritis is pain in the affected joint(s) after repetitive use. Joint pain is usually worse later in the day. There can be swelling, warmth, and creaking of the affected joints. Symptoms of OA may greatly vary. Some patients can be debilitated by their symptoms. On the other hand, others may have remarkably few symptoms in spite of dramatic degeneration of the joints apparent on x-rays. Symptoms also can be intermittent.
These 2 forms have very different causes, risk factors, and effects on the body, yet they often share a common symptom - persistent joint pain.
What are the causes of arthritis?
Primary OA is mostly related to aging. With aging, the water content of the cartilage increases and the protein makeup of cartilage degenerates. Repetitive use of the joints over the years irritates and inflames the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling. Eventually, cartilage begins to degenerate by flaking or forming tiny crevasses. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths (spurs) to form around the joints. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows an injury to a joint. For example, a young person might hurt his knee badly playing soccer. Then, years after the knee has apparently healed, he might get arthritis in his knee joint.
RA is an autoimmune disease. This means the body's natural immune system does not operate as it should; it attacks healthy joint tissue, initiating a process of inflammation and joint damage. RA is a type of chronic arthritis that occurs in joints on both sides of the body (such as hands, wrists or knees). This symmetry helps distinguish RA from other types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs most frequently in the 30-50 age group, although can start at any age. It is strongly associated with the HLA marker DR4 - hence Family history is an important risk factor. The disease affects Females:Males in a 4:1 ratio.
Other conditions can also cause arthritis. Some include:
- Gout, in which crystals build up in the joints. It usually affects the big toe.
- Lupus , in which the body's defense system can harm the joints, the heart, the skin, the kidneys, and other organs.
- Viral hepatitis ,in which an infection of the liver can cause arthritis.
What can you do about it?
Some people may worry that arthritis means they won't be able to work or take care of their children and their family. Others think that you just have to accept things like arthritis.
While there is not yet a cure for arthritis, much can be done today to reduce pain and boost joint function. Learning how to manage pain over the long term is essential to maintaining a good quality of life. There are things you can do to keep the damage from getting worse. They might also make you feel better.Here are some simple things to do:
- Lose weight if you're overweight
- Exercise regularly for short periods. Going for a walk every day will help, too.
- Use canes and other special devices to protect your joints.
- Avoid lifting heavy things.
- Don't pull on objects to move them-push them instead
- Use heat or cold to reduce pain or stiffness.
The pain and disability that accompany arthritis can be decreased through early diagnosis and appropriate management.So if you have persistent symptoms lasting more than several days - go see your doctor. The doctor will examine you and may take x rays (pictures) of your bones or joints to decide if you have arthritis and what kind you have.
After the doctor knows what kind of arthritis you have, he or she will talk with you about the best way to treat it. The doctor may give you a prescription for medicine that will help with the pain, stiffness, and inflammation.