Arthritis is the name for a group of conditions that exhibit damage to joints such as knees, hips and fingers. According to the Arthritis Foundation there are over 100 different conditions covered by the term “arthritis”, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Depending of the form of arthritis the initial symptoms of are pain and stiffness which can occur after resting (morning) or at the end of the day. Additional symptoms can include rash, fever, swelling, muscle pain, eye pain and mouth ulcers.
Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative arthritis, degenerative joint disease and arthrosis, is a condition caused by the protective cartilage that protects the ends of bones gradually breaks down. Research indicates that up to 60% of osteoarthritis cases are hereditary. It can also result from injury, obesity (additional weight on joints), inflammatory diseases, diabetes and hormonal disorders. The weight bearing joints – hips, knees and back – are most commonly affected. It is not uncommon for the joints of the feet and hands to also be affected. OA affects nearly 21 million people in the United States, accounting for 25% of visits to primary care physicians. It is estimated that 80% of the population will have some evidence of OA by age 65.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the synovium, or lining, of the joints. This means that the body’s immune system incorrectly identifies the synovium as a foreign material and attacks it. This results in swelling and inflammation of the joint which, in turn, causes tissue and cartilage damage around the joint.
Unfortunately, people of all ages can develop rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers have discovered many potential causes, including emotional or physical stress, bacterial infections, poor nutrition or genetics.
There are several tests that are used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. A blood test is used to check for the presence and level of inflammation in the body. Radiographic imaging (X-rays), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and bone scans will provide visual indications of the severity and progression of arthritis in the joints.
Following a positive diagnosis for RA, there are a number of treatment options available to slow the progression of the disease, improve the pain and maintain mobility. These treatments include several classes of drug therapies, whirlpool treatments, physical therapy and exercises to increase mobility and prevent complications.
There are also many natural treatments that can be utilized. Certain foods contain anti-inflammatory properties, such as and tart red cherries. Other foods contribute to repairing and rebuilding bone and cartilage, such as eggs, asparagus, onions and garlic. Many other foods are believed to have beneficial effects on rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. These include fish, brown rice, non-acidic fresh fruits, oatmeal, and leafy green vegetables.
Research indicates that food allergies may be linked to rheumatoid arthritis. People with rheumatoid arthritis were found to have higher antibody levels in their intestinal fluid to proteins from hen’s eggs, pork, cow’s milk, codfish and cereal than that of people without RA.
In addition, many people with back and neck pain report that they have experienced pain relief when they eliminated foods that they were allergic to.
Exercise is highly recommended for improving the symptoms of RA. Strengthening the muscles, which can contribute to a reduction of stress on the joints, leads to improved strength of the bones and improvement in the flexibility and health of the cartilage. Exercises, such as swimming or walking, are excellent ways to slow the progression of the disease.
Obesity is another common contributor to arthritis. Weight loss is one of the best ways to improve the symptoms of arthritis.
Arthritis is a serious condition. If you think that you may have arthritis, you should confer with your doctor for a diagnosis.