What is Arthritis?

Arthritis meaning is nothing but a type of inflammation affecting one or various joints in the body. It can occur in various forms and is typically a cause for pain, swelling and discomfort in the affected regions. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, and while it is most commonly found in senior citizens, the disease can affect people of varying ages.

Types Of Arthritis

Here are a few arthritis types that you should know about -

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis: This is one of the rarest arthritis types that causes severe pain and stiffness in the spine. It can lead to a lifelong condition known as the Bechterew disease, which begins in the lower back region. It can spread up to the neck or damage joints and other parts of the body as well.
  • Arthritis Gout: It is also known as gouty arthritis. Too much uric acid in the blood can lead to the formation of uric acid crystals and cause arthritis gout.
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: It is a group of conditions that first appears before the age of 16 years. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system malfunctions and attacks different organs of the body, tissues, and joints.
  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is caused due to the general wear and tear of the joints. It happens when the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones wears down over time.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis: People with skin infection like psoriasis tend to suffer from psoriatic arthritis.
  • Reactive Arthritis: It is a type of joint pain and swelling triggered mainly due to infections in the intestines, genitals, or urinary tract. Reactive arthritis targets the knees and joints of the ankles and feet. You can feel inflammation in the eyes, skin, and urethra as well.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is another type that causes the immune system to attack specific parts of the body, starting with the lining of joints.
  • Septic Arthritis: It is also known as infectious arthritis resulting in joint inflammation. Symptoms usually are redness, inflammation and pain in a single joint. It is often followed by a decreased ability to move the joint, and the onset of the same is rapid.
  • Thumb Arthritis: thumb arthritis is common as you grow old, especially when the cartilage from the end of the bones wears down.

Further, in this section, we will be discussing the arthritis causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Let us begin by studying the symptoms of the same.

Symptoms of Arthritis

Depending on the type, you can experience the following arthritis symptoms:

1. Joint Pain

It is one of the most common arthritis symptoms. Any joint in the body can be affected by the disease, but it is more common in the knee. The severity of pain can depend on the type of arthritis and its condition.

So, if you have pain in or around a joint that doesn’t go away after a few days, you should definitely see a doctor. Those who suffer from arthritis complain of aching pain that is worsened by activity and relieved by rest.

2. Stiffness of Joints

Most types of arthritis cause stiffness in and around the affected joints. Also, a high percentage of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis experience stiff joints in the morning or after long periods of sitting in one position.

For some, this joint stiffness can last for part of the day. For others, it can continue throughout the entire day.

3. Swelling of Joint

Swelling, caused by inflammation, around a joint is the most common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes it can be severe and can also weaken ligaments in the joints. So, if there’s swelling in or around your joints and it’s not due to any injury, there are chances that it’s due to arthritis.

4. Joint Tenderness

Tender joints are another common arthritis symptom. Your joint might feel tender when you touch it or apply light pressure near it. Also, if you feel pain, this is an indication that the joint is inflamed.

5. Less Flexibility

Loss of flexibility of a joint, such as inability to bend, move freely or pick something off the floor, is another symptom related to arthritis. If you are unable to move your joint through its full range of motion, you should see a doctor. Also, affected joints might hurt during or after movement.

6. Crackling or Grating Sensation

In arthritis, you might also feel a grating sensation when moving the joint. As joint cartilage gets damaged, the surfaces of the affected joints no longer move smoothly against each other.

Causes of Arthritis

Let us look at some arthritis causes and symptoms for the two most common types:

1. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

RA affects the joints, connective tissues, muscles, tendons, and fibrous tissue. Symptoms can begin as early as the age of 20 and the chronic pain can hamper productivity.

2. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. You are most likely to see the elderly getting this diagnosis because it is associated with aging and usually impacts the knees, hips, fingers, and lower spine region. Over 9.6% of men and 18.0% of women aged over 60 years are reported to have symptomatic osteoarthritis.

Further, let us take a look at a few risk factors that can lead to arthritis. These include -

  • Your family history: Some type of arthritis conditions are passed on from family members, making you more vulnerable to contracting it.
  • Age: Many arthritis conditions are developed as you grow old.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop arthritis conditions as compared to men. However, arthritis gout is more common in men.
  • Previous/Existing joint injury: If you have injured your joint playing a sport or in an accident, you are more likely to develop arthritis.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can stress the joints, leading to arthritis. Use a BMI calculator to keep track of your weight category.

Diagnosis Of Arthritis

A physician will perform a physical examination on you to check for fluids around the joints, will observe warm or red joints, and limitation of the motions. Based on this, they will further refer you to a specialist (if needed). However, if your symptoms are severe, schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist as it leads to faster diagnosis and recovery.

Determining the level of inflammation in your blood and joint fluids, the doctor will understand the type of arthritis you have. Certain conditions can require blood tests as well. Besides, the use of imaging scans like X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans help in evaluating the situation further.

Treatment for Arthritis

Since arthritis is essentially incurable, the primary focus of any arthritis treatment is to minimize the amount of pain and stiffness experienced by the patient. Arthritis can occur in many forms and in different parts of the body, so there is no one treatment plan that works as a one-size-fits-all means of relief.

However, treatments for arthritis largely consist of one or all of the following methods:

1. Medicine

Since arthritis treatment is centered around pain management, patients can be prescribed a variety of analgesics ie. painkillers. They can also be prescribed medications known as Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, to control not only pain but the inflammation at the targeted region itself.

2. Therapy

Since the movement of certain joints causes an immense amount of pain, arthritis patients might refrain from moving those body parts. However, this may increase the amount of pain and stiffness in those joints.

This is why physical therapy is an effective method for a trained physician to help restore movement in those affected joints, increase their range of motion and thereby, help the patient lead a more normal life.

3. Surgery

In case the other two types of arthritis treatments are rendered ineffective, the doctor might also advise the patient to undergo a surgical operation. Depending on the severity of the arthritic damage, a patient can undergo either a joint repair (to realign joints) or joint fusion (to fuse the ends of two bones in the joint). In other more severe cases, one can even undergo a joint replacement surgery where the entire damaged joint is replaced with an artificial joint.

4. Lifestyle Changes

Patients with arthritis are also strongly recommended to make serious lifestyle changes to improve their quality of life. For instance, following a healthy diet is essential since certain types of foods can help reduce arthritis-related inflammation.

Also, regular exercise can help reduce weight, thereby placing less pressure on your joints as well as improving the body’s flexibility.

Natural Remedies for Arthritis

Exercising and following healthy lifestyle habits can help people with arthritis maintain their health over time. Here’s what they can do.

1. Self Management

Managing the symptoms of arthritis is essential. Some key strategies include -

  • Staying physically active
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Getting regular medical checkups
  • Avoiding stressing the joints

Besides, the following five habits can help the patient to manage their symptoms.

  • Stay Organised: Try keeping track of your symptoms, pain levels, medications, and side effects. Further, consult your doctor for the same to improve your treatment going ahead.
  • Manage Pain & Fatigue: Maintain a balance between your medication and non-medication regimen. Managing your fatigue will allow you to lead a fulfilling life, even with arthritis.
  • Stay Active: Get some physical activity by exercising.
  • Rest up: Along with staying active, give your body much needed rest when the condition is active.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Consuming a healthy meal and maintaining your body weight will help control inflammation. We will learn about the different food items that help with arthritis further in this article.

Besides this, it is highly advisable to not sit in the same position for a longer duration. It is essential to take regular intervals and keep your body moving over the day.

2. Physical Therapies

People diagnosed with arthritis often undergo physical therapy sessions to overcome the challenges. The doctor might recommend the following forms of physical therapies:

  • Warm Water Therapy: This includes exercises in a warm-water pool. The water helps support weight (in case you are obese) and puts less pressure on the joints.
  • Physical Therapy: Certain exercises are tailored depending on the person’s condition. These are often combined with pain-relieving treatments like ice or hot packs and massages.
  • Occupational Therapy: Consult expert advice on managing routine tasks, selecting special equipment, and protecting the joint from further damage.

Ensure that you consult an expert before setting out a routine. Further, let us take a look at the diet that helps with arthritis.

Food that helps with Arthritis

Arthritis can leave an individual in a state of chronic pain. While new medications and treatment avenues are being discovered, something as simple as changing your diet can also work wonders to fight the disease. Let us examine how adopting a healthy lifestyle and eating habits can be extremely beneficial for you.

  • Fatty Fish

Fatty fish come in a lot of varieties, such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, and trout. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory properties that can have a significant impact on your joints.

Besides, fish is also a great source of Vitamin D, which can help you in case you have a vitamin D deficiency. Having a Vitamin D deficiency can lead to several problems, such as weakened bones and joints that can pose a significant risk if you have arthritis. It is one of the foods for arthritis that you must definitely make a part of your daily diet.

Omega 3 fatty acids are also available in the form of pills that you can ingest.

  • Garlic and Ginger

Garlic and ginger can greatly help you in dealing with arthritis, since they are known to have anti-inflammatory properties that can lower the risks related to arthritis. Garlic and ginger are two of the most common foods in the Indian household.

Known for their cancer-fighting properties, they also have compounds that significantly lower the risk of having heart disease and even dementia. They can be an active part of your healthy eating habits — toss them in the pan with anything you are making or have ginger in a cup of tea — there are several ways to consume them.

  • Broccoli

Broccoli may be known as the hip food, but it is one of the best foods for arthritis. It can reduce inflammation to great extents. A study conducted on 1,005 women found out that broccoli consumption was related to reduced risks of inflammation.

One of the compounds that is found in broccoli is called sulforaphane, which is known to block the formation of the cell involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. For healthy eating, broccoli is indeed one of the superfoods.

  • Walnuts

One can never stress enough on how great walnuts and other dry fruits are for your health. Walnuts, especially, can reduce inflammation, which can help heal your joints and keep them in good shape. They are also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids that can work wonders for your joints. Studies in the past have shown that the consumption of walnuts has led to reduced risks of inflammation.

With so many superfoods around, it has become much easier to take care of your diet and introduce eating habits that can significantly lower the risk of having problems related to arthritis.

  • Spinach

Leafy greens like spinach are one of the most wholesome sources of nourishment you can get your hands on. A recent study conducted successfully established that spinach can help reduce inflammation of the joints and curb the progression of osteoarthritis.

How to Prevent Arthritis?

Following the measures below can help you from acquiring arthritis in the near future.

  • Control & Manage Weight

The argument for weight control for prevention of arthritis is simple: your knees and feet support your body weight. If the weight creates an imbalance, it can take a toll on the lower part of your body, affecting the bones the most. If you’re just 10 pounds overweight, the force on your knee as you take each step increases by 30 to 60 pounds, according to Johns Hopkins.

  • Regular Workout

In the pursuit of weight control, exercising can help get rid of the excess weight as well as strengthen muscles around the joints. Walking, swimming and stretching are the most suitable modes of physical activity.

  • Minimise Incidences of Injuries

Every time you injure your joints – while playing or in an accident – the cartilage gets damaged. To slow down the wear and tear of your tissues, avoid getting injured as much as possible. This means you should wear appropriate gear while driving and playing sports.

  • Healthy Changes to the Diet

To avoid chronic pain, you are also supposed to eat a healthy diet that is low in sugar and high in antioxidants. It is also advised to avoid alcohol. The idea is to increase intake of foods that can help reduce inflammation and decrease intake of foods like processed and fried foods that can cause or aggravate inflammation.

Conclusion

Considering it is proactive to manage arthritis conditions, prevention is better than cure. Even so, sometimes symptoms strike without warning irrespective of the measures undertaken.

Arthritis can put implications on your financial health too. While, they may force you to retire early, on the other hand, there are burgeoning medical expenses. In such a situation, you must have adequate health insurance to cover the rising costs.

Overall, arthritis can be difficult and painful, and people diagnosed with it often have to rely on various treatment methods to provide them with some form of relief.

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