With the ever changing lifestyle, eating habits and exercising routine, approximately 15% of people, i.e. around 180 million people in India suffer from arthritis. The percentage prevalence in India is higher than many other countries and also in comparison to many well-known diseases such as cancer, diabetes, AIDS, and heart related conditions.
Arthritis is a condition wherein the body experiences inflammation of the joints. It usually affects more than one joint of the body, and its depth of severity is quite high as well. Medical science recognizes approximately 100 types of arthritis. Of these, two are most common – rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Inflammation, as many physicians state, is the body’s way of healing itself from a condition. It usually occurs when the body triggers its defense mechanism against foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, etc. But, there are some cases wherein inflammation often takes place for no reason. Such a state is known as autoimmune condition. This means that the immune system is under the state of confusion and it starts to the joints. Instead of running a repair mechanism in the body, inflammation causes the onset of arthritis, damaging the joints and laying foundation of prolonged pain and stiffness. This autoimmune disorder is known as rheumatoid arthritis.
Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis takes place as a result of body’s normal wear and tear process. An injury or infection to the joint(s) can aggravate this normal breakdown of cartilage tissue and further cause the onset of osteoarthritis. As stated above, it’s a quite common condition and the risk of developing this condition alleviate if an individual has a family history of arthritis.
Conditions that Cause Arthritis
There’s no one condition that can be given the title of arthritis on-setter in the body, but a plethora of them work together to make the condition surface and cause damage to the joints. These causes, in any given case, widely vary depending upon the type of arthritis an individual has. Potential causes of arthritis typically include the following:-
- An injury that progresses to become degenerative arthritis
- Abnormal metabolism, which causes gout and pseudogout
- Genetic inheritance – such as in the case of osteoarthritis
- An infection such as Lyme disease that causes arthritis
- Dysfunctionality of the immune system – such as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis and Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Age factor also makes for an important cause of arthritis. The more the age, the more are the chances of suffering from arthritis.
- Obesity is a great contributor to the condition of arthritis. Excess weight puts pressure on the joints and hence, causes the onset of arthritis.
Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis
Just like different types of arthritis are caused by different factors, their symptoms too vary depending upon their type and nature. Usually the symptoms of arthritis either develop at a gradual scale or suddenly, and as the condition progresses, so do its symptoms. They may come and go, or persist for a longer duration of time.
Orthopaedic physicians define four key warning signs of arthritis. Each of these demand prompt attention and treatment in order to reduce the chances of the condition advancing to a chronic stage.
Pain – Pain is the most prominent and significant sign of arthritis. It may come and go or be constant. Also, it’s quite common to note that pain may either stay isolated to one single place, one joint only or be felt in multiple parts of the body. In any case, the severity of the pain is higher than usual.
Swelling – There are many well-known types of arthritis that affect the skin near the joint and cause swelling in that area. It feels warm upon touch and looks ugly.
Stiffness – Since it’s related to the joints, stiffness can be highly anticipated as an important sign of arthritis. There are many forms of arthritis wherein stiffness is higher than usual, especially during early morning when a person wakes up, after sitting in one position for a while, and other similar situations.
Joint Movement Difficulty – Getting up or moving a joint is generally easy. But when a person has arthritis, doing so becomes difficult. As simple as getting up from a chair seems like a difficult task. It’s a sign that must not be ignored at all.
Diagnostic Tests for Arthritis
As a general process, the condition of arthritis can be diagnosed by studying an individual’s detailed medical history of his/her past and present physical examination, symptoms and some specific laboratory tests. Many physicians state that an individual can suffer from more than one kind of arthritis at the same time. The best way to identify the type and risks involved is by conducting a series of the below given tests and procedures.
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Rheumatoid factor
- HLA antigens for HLA B27
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
- Blood culture
- Joint X-ray
- Joint ultrasound or MRI
- Anti-CCP antibody
- C-reactive protein
- Bone scan
- Antinuclear antibody (ANA)
- Synovial fluid analysis
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Cell Count Aspiration of Joint Fluid
- Thyroid function tests
- Uric acid – urine
- Uric acid – blood
- Synovial biopsy
- Tear Production Schirmer’s test
- Tear test
- Slit lamp examination
- Salivary gland biopsy
Treatment against Arthritis
No matter if an individual is suffering from an inflammatory or a non-inflammatory arthritis, the field of medical science recognizes a broad range of treatment means and medications that can help treat arthritis and its pain in the most effective and efficient manner.
The main point of focus in the treatment of arthritis is to find a way to control joint pain, mitigate the damage that has or can be caused to the joint(s) and maintain or improve the functionality of the bone structure of the body. Usually the treatment of arthritis includes the following things:-
- Prescribing targeted medications
- Suggesting some non-pharmacologic therapies
- Progressing to an occupational or physical therapy
- Offering aids against the maintenance of health of splints or joints
- Educating the patient about the condition and smart means to support his/her own body structure during the entire treatment process
- Losing excess weight in order to reduce pressure on the joints
- Conducing a surgery at an advanced stage. A joint replacement and surgery.
Lifestyle Changes to Treat/Cure Arthritis
There are a number of lifestyle habits that trigger arthritis in individuals. Making necessary lifestyle changes have become imperative. Losing excess weight and managing it is a great way to reduce the risk of suffering from osteoarthritis and other known types.
Eating a healthy diet, additionally, is very important. For this aids in the reduction and maintenance of weight, further eliminating the chances of developing the condition of arthritis. A diet loaded with the richness of antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, and herbs, along with other anti-inflammatory-redoing foods, such as fish and nuts, is highly recommended. Foods that must be avoided or restricted include fried items, processed foods, high intake of meat and milk products.
Many pieces of research also determine that gluten antibodies cause inflammation in the body, and hence, it’s vital to avoid intake of gluten-loaded foods.
Regular exercising helps keep the joints flexible and working. Swimming is regarded as one of the best ways to lose weight and steer away from the condition of arthritis.
Making simple yet effective changes in one’s lifestyle can help keep the human system fit and healthy. For our body is a temple that demands to be worshiped.