What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a health condition that causes the inflammation of the joints. A joint is a point in the body where the bones meet, such as knee or elbow. The joints become increasingly painful and there is stiffness and swelling in the join along with reduced mobility of the affected joints.
The name Arthritis is derived from the Greek words “Arthro” which means joint and “itis” which means inflammation.
Arthritis is classified under rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases are group of diseases that affect the joints, muscles and connective tissues and could also affect other internal organs.
Rheumatologist is a specialized doctor for treating patients with Arthritis and related medical conditions.
Fact 1: Arthritis is not only an old people disease
Who is affected by Arthritis?
Arthritis is usually seen in people over the age of 65. Therefore there is a common misconception among the general population that arthritis is a health condition affecting only the older people. Some types of arthritis can affect people of any ages.
Fact 2: Arthritis effects more women than men
Arthritis is more common among women than men in all age groups. People of races and ethnic groups are affected by the disease. People who are overweight are at more risk of developing certain types of Arthritis.
Fact 3: Arthritis is the name of a group of diseases
There are more than 100 types of Arthritis and the list is growing as new types are discovered. The 3 most common types of Arthritis are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriatic Arthritis.
What Causes Arthritis?
The cause of Arthritis may depend on the type of Arthritis in question and each type of arthritis has a different treatment approach. For example an injury can lead to Osteoarthritis, while abnormalities in metabolic activity can lead to Gouty Arthritis.
An overactive or misdirected immune system response could also lead to Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus.
Fact 4: Arthritis is as old as the human race
Arthritis is not a modern day manifestations. In fact, historians have found evidence of Arthritis in skeletal remains dating back to the early human beings. The disease has been described in ancient Egyptian medical texts. It has also being described in Ayurvedic medicine (Ancient Indian medicine) text from 123 AD.
Fact 5: Some types of Arthritis can be inherited
People who develop Rheumatoid arthritis seem to have been prone to developing the disease due to hereditary factors. The genes that control the immune system of the individual also play an important role along with other genes to determine the tendency of developing the disease and also the course and severity of the disease in individuals.
Fact 6: Arthritis can effect more than just joints
What are symptoms and signs of Arthritis?
The usual symptoms of Arthritis could include the following issues at the joints:
- Limited mobility of the affected joints
- Stiffness of the joints
- Inflammation of the joints
- Redness, warmth and swelling
- Tenderness of the inflamed joints
Some types of Arthritis can have symptoms not directly related to the joints, such as:
- Weight loss
- Fatigue and general feeling of unwell
- Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
Other types of Arthritis like Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus can have a whole body effect (systemic effect). There could be various symptoms and abnormalities with organs like lungs, heart and the kidneys.
Fact 7: Arthritis is a very common health condition
As per CDC data, 22.7% (52.5 million) American adults have arthritis diagnosed by doctors. The number is expected to increase to 25% (67 million) for individual over 18 years by the year 2030 as the population ages.
Fact 8: There is no cure for Arthritis
For most patients, getting diagnosed with arthritis means they will have this condition for life long since there is no cure for the condition.
Fortunately, the condition can be well managed by lifestyle changes and medications for controlling the symptoms.
Various types of Arthritis can be grouped into three major categories.
- Inflammatory arthritis (Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis and gout)
- Structure arthritis (osteoarthritis)
- infectious arthritis (Lyme arthritis, septic arthritis)
In case of infectious arthritis, it’s possible to get fully cured following a course of antibiotics.
Other types of arthritis like gouty arthritis can be put into remission by lowering the uric acid to levels where gout crystals do not form. This can be done by avoiding foods high in purines (Spinach, sweetbreads, red meat, and seafood) or by medication.
Fact 9: Arthritis is the leading cause of disability
Arthritis has become the leading cause of disability around the world. The employment prospects are bleak for people with arthritis. People of working age are less likely to get employed if they are diagnosed with arthritis when compared with people of similar skill set without the condition.
The economic impact on the affected individual and their employers are enormous. It is also one of the five most costly health conditions for the adults to manage due to the loss of productivity and possible wage losses.
Fact 10: More physical activity is better
Most people with arthritis have a physically less active lifestyle due to the pain, stiffness and inflammation in the joints which restricts their mobility. A very important strategy for people with arthritis is to remain active in order to strengthen the muscles which help in reducing the pain in the long run and thus improving the quality of their lives.
Can arthritis be prevented?
Certain lifestyle changes can delay the process of developing arthritis and developing painful joints.
Avoid Injury: It is important to use protective gears during all high risk sports activities. Certain types of injuries could accelerate the process of developing arthritis in the future. It is also important to learn the correct techniques for exercises in gyms and other training centers in order to avoid unnecessary injuries.
Losing weight: Excess weight puts additional strain on the joints, which in turn accelerates the process of joint wear and tear. Reducing weight can help relieve pressure on the joints and delay the process.
Losing weight also helps in increasing physical activity which in turn helps in strengthening the muscles around the joints and thus reducing wear and tear on the joints. This has a cumulative effect on pain relief for joints affected by arthritis.
Diet: Omega-3 fatty acids in diet can help reduce pain and stiffness of the joints. Turmeric (yellow spice) has anti-inflammatory properties and this can help in reducing pain in individuals with arthritis. Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones which can delay the development of arthritis.
Early diagnose: The damage caused by arthritis is progressive in nature. Thus early intervention of the process can slow the development process of arthritis and greatly improve the quality of life for the individual.