Arthritis | Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Male feet under the X-rays. knee joints are highlighted in red.

Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. Arthritis describes over 100 conditions affecting the joints, with different causes as well as different treatment methods. There are two common types of arthritis namely, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).

Arthritis symptoms usually develop over time, but sometimes appear suddenly. Arthritis can develop in children, teens, and younger adults, but most commonly found in adults above the age of 65. In addition, the case of arthritis is common among women than men, likewise in people who are overweight.

Symptoms of Arthritis

The most common symptoms of arthritis include stiffness, joint pain, and swelling. There can also be a decrease in your range of motion, and you can also experience redness of the skin around your joints. People with arthritis will notice worse symptoms in the morning.

RA case can make you tired or undergo a loss of appetite due to the inflammation caused by the activity of the immune system. Also, your red blood cell count may decrease (anemic) or have a little fever. If severe RA is left untreated, it may cause joint deformity.

Causes of Arthritis

Cartilage is a connective tissue in your joints. The firm but flexible cartilage protects the joints by absorbing the pressure and shock that is created during movement, putting stress on them. A form of arthritis is developed as a result of the reduction in the normal amount of cartilage tissue.

OA, one of the most common types of arthritis is caused by normal wear and tear. An injury or infection to the joint can exacerbate the natural breakdown of cartilage tissue. A family history of OA may increase your risk of developing the disease.

RA, another common type of arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when the body tissues are attacked by your body’s immune system. The attack affects synovium. Synovium is a soft tissue in the joints that produces a fluid which nourishes the cartilage and lubricates the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease of the synovium which invades and destroys a joint. It can lead to the destruction of the bone and cartilage inside the joint.

Though what cause the attack of the immune system is unknown, genetic markers have been discovered by the scientist which increases your risk of developing fivefold of RA.

How to Diagnose Arthritis

The first step is seeing your primary care physician for an arthritis diagnosis. A physical exam is performed to check warmer red joints, fluid around joints, and limited range of motion in the joints. You’ll be referred to a specialist if necessary.

You may schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist if your symptoms are severe, which may lead to a quicker diagnosis and treatment.

Your doctor can determine the type of arthritis you have by extracting and analyzing the inflammation levels in your blood and joint fluids. Other common diagnostic tests include antinuclear antibody (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP).

Doctors usually use imaging scans such as MRI, X-ray, and CT scans to produce an image of your bones and cartilage to rule out other causes of your symptoms, such as bone spurs.

Arthritis Treatment

The first step to treatment is to reduce the amount of pain you feel and prevent additional damage to the joints. Thereby knowing what works best for your body in term of controlling pains. Heating pads and ice packs can be soothing for some people, while others make use of assistive devices like walkers or canes to help take-off sore joints pressure.

It is also very important to improve your joint function. A combination of treatment methods to achieve the best improvement results may be prescribed by your doctor.

Medication

There are different types of medication to treat arthritis which includes

1. Capsaicin or Menthol Creams: these creams block pain signals transmitted from the joints.

2. Analgesics: these include acetaminophen (Tylenol) or hydrocodone (Vicodin) which are effective pain management, but do not help reduce inflammation.

3. Immunosuppressant: such as cortisone or prednisone help to reduce inflammation.

4. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): It helps control pain and inflammation. Examples are ibuprofen (Advil) and salicylates. Salicylates can thin your blood, so use it cautiously with additional blood thinning medications.

If you have Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), your doctor may place you on disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or corticosteroids to suppress your immune system if you have RA. Other medications to treat osteoarthritis (OA) are available by prescription or over the counter.

Surgery

Replacing your joint with an artificial one may be considered. This type of surgery is mostly performed to replace hips and knees. Your doctor may perform a joint fusion if your arthritis is severe in the fingers or wrists. Through this method, your bones end are locked together until they heal and become one.

Physical Therapy

Various exercises that can help strengthen muscles around the affected joint is an important part of arthritis treatment.

Lifestyle Changes That Can Help People With Arthritis

Maintaining a healthy weight and weight loss can reduce the risk of developing OA. Likewise, it can reduce symptoms if it already occurs.

Eating a healthy diet is crucial for weight loss and the diet should contain lots of antioxidants such as vegetables, fresh fruits, and herbs to help reduce inflammation. Other foods that reduce inflammation include nuts and fish.

People with arthritis should minimize or avoid fried foods, dairy products, high meat intake, and processed foods.

Some research suggests that people with RA may have gluten antibodies. For such people to improve their symptoms and disease progression, they should consider eating a gluten-free diet.

Undergoing regular exercise will help keep your joints flexible. A good type of exercise is swimming because it doesn’t pressurize your joints the way walking and running does. Keeping fit is optimum but take a rest when necessary to avoid overexerting yourself.

Exercises you can try at home include:

  • Finger and thumb bends to ease hands pain
  • Hamstring stretches, leg raises, and other minor exercises for knee arthritis
  • Neck rotation, the head tilt, and other neck pain relieve exercises

Long-Term Outlook for People with Arthritis

Since there’s no arthritis’ cure, proper treatment can ultimately reduce your symptoms. In addition to your doctor’s recommendation, you can make different changes to your lifestyle that may help manage your arthritis.