In general, arthritis is a disease of the joints and cartilages. To have an understanding of arthritis, you must understand cartilages and joints.
What are joints? A joint is a place in the body where two or more bones meet such as the shoulder or knee.
What are cartilages? Cartilage is a slippery tissue that layers the bones in the body and a cushion in the joint that protects the joint from the pressure and the shock of movement making the movement painless.
What is arthritis? Arthritis is termed as “inflammation of the joints”. Symptoms include swelling, stiffness and pain.
What causes arthritis? When the cartilage is broken down or the joints in the body are inflamed, arthritis occurs. When the cartilage is worn or breaks down, the bones begin to hit one another, rubbing together without the protective cartilage resulting in stiffness, swelling and pain.
Two most common types of arthritis 1- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis among adults living with arthritis. It is a form of arthritis that is often a result of wear and tear of the joints that begin to wear out as a person ages. The disease may also be a result of an injury. The most common places on the body for osteoarthritis to strike are in the hands, hips and knees. The condition causes the joints to thicken and ache. The joint tissues may become strained and cause more pain. 2- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is a result of a poor immune system. The immune system is responsible for helping to protect the body against infection. The immune system begins to attack the body’s healthy tissues, causing an inflammation and pain in the joint. The disease can also affect other body parts such as the eyes, nerves, blood vessels and heart. .
Signs and symptoms of arthritis Although there are over 100 types of arthritis, there are symptoms that are common in all forms such as: • Redness and warmth in a joint • Difficulty when moving or using a joint normally • Recurring or constant pain and/or tenderness in a joint • Redness and warmth of the skin surrounding the joint • Limited use of a joint • Stiffness around the joints that lasts for at least an hour in the early morning • Joint swells or enlarges • Joint feels like it will not support the weight of the body or is not stable With rheumatoid arthritis other signs may occur as well. If you are experiencing pain or concern it is important to visit your doctor. However, prior to you visit, ask yourself the below questions: • What medicine/s are you taking? • Does your family have a history of any type arthritis or other rheumatic disease? • Have you had any accidents or illnesses that may account for the pain you are experiencing? • Does activity make the better or worse? • What were you doing when you first became aware of the pain? • How long does the pain last? • When does the pain occur? • Is the pain in one or more joints? By answering the above questions you will help your doctor to better diagnose your condition.
How is arthritis diagnosed? Diagnosis will be made by your doctor who will take a medical history, perform a physical exam and may take x-rays and blood tests.
How is arthritis treated? Treating the disease will depend on various factors such as: • The type of arthritis • The cause • Your work or activity • Your age • How the arthritis affects your daily activities • Severity of pain • Which joints are painful Surgery and medical drug therapy can also be a treatment to help the condition. Because the dangers involved with medical drugs pose additional risks to the persons health many patients are turning to herbal supplements.
Lifestyle changes Persons living with arthritis may be required to incorporate the following changes into their daily routine and lifestyle:
• Not staying in a position for an excessive amount of time • Avoid movements or positions that put extra stress on painful joints • Use cold or hot treatments to help to control swelling and pain • Exercise to strengthen the muscles and improve joint strength and movement. Strength training, dancing, bicycling, swimming and walking are all good choices in exercise.