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Arthritis and everything you need to know about it

What is arthritis?

Arthritis leads to inflammation of your joints. One or multiple joints can be affected by this disease. Approximately 100 types of arthritis exist in the world that you might be prone to developing. Every type has a different course of cause and treatment method. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA), are two types of arthritis that people most commonly suffer from.

You might notice the symptoms of arthritis affecting and growing over time, or you might suddenly be riddled by them. Adults well past the age of 65 usually are victims of arthritis. However, young adults, teenagers as well as children can develop it too. Women are seen to be more vulnerable to developing arthritis than men. People who are overweight are highly prone to it as well.

What are some of the arthritis symptoms?

The most common manifestations of arthritis symptoms include swelling, joint pain, and stiffness. It decreases your range of movement substantially and makes the skin around your joints turn red. Several people complain about their arthritis symptoms becoming worse in the morning.

You might be overcome by tiredness or lose your appetite if you have rheumatoid arthritis. The activity of your immune system causes inflammation, which in turn causes these symptoms. Your red blood cell count takes a fall, which leads to you becoming anaemic, or developing a slight fever. If you do not treat RA in its initial stages, it can grow severe and lead to joint deformity.

What are the causes of arthritis?

Cartilage is a type of tissue in your joint that is firm but incredibly flexible. It acts as an armour for your joints while protecting them from the shock and pressure movement creates as well as the stress we invariably put on them. When the amount of cartilage tissue falls below-average amount, it leads to the development of arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is caused due to daily wear and tear of the cartilage tissues, which is the most common form of arthritis a majority of people suffer from. To make things worse if you injure your joints or develop an infection, it could lead to further deterioration of cartilage tissue. If you have a family history of osteoarthritis, it might make you additionally vulnerable to the disease. 

RA is also one of the most prevalent forms of arthritis, which is categorized as an autoimmune disorder. It takes place when various tissues present in your body are under attack from your immune system. A soft tissue present in your joints known as synovium is directly affected due to these attacks. Synovium is responsible for the production of a fluid that helps lubricate your joints and nourish your cartilages. RA directly affects the liquid that results in utter destruction of the joint. Over time it leads to degeneration of both cartilage and bone within the joint.


The precise reason behind your immune system attacking certain parts of your body is as of yet unknown. However, research has unearthed specific genetic markers that could make you increasingly vulnerable to developing RA. The risk goes up by fivefold. 

How does arthritis get diagnosed?

You might begin by approaching your general physician before visiting a specialist if you’re not sure about arthritis diagnosis. They might put you through a physical exam to determine the extent to which your body has been damaged by arthritis. It also helps assess your range of motion, the fluids present around your joints, and if you have red or warm joints. If the damage is extensive, your doctor might refer you to a specialist.


Just in case your symptoms are extremely severe, you could approach a rheumatologist, to begin with. It could result in your symptoms being diagnosed at a faster rate and to limit the damage by starting treatment immediately. 

Extracting your joint fluids and blood to analyse the levels of inflammation can help your doctor determine the exact type of arthritis you have developed. There are several types of blood tests that help detect a specific kind of antibody including anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide), ANA (antinuclear antibody) and RF (rheumatoid factor), that help diagnose RA.


Doctor assess the damage in your cartilage and bones by asking you to get a CT scan, MRI or an X-ray. These tests are usually recommended to rule out other sources of trouble such as bone spurs. 

What is the treatment for arthritis?

Arthritis causes a lot of pain in its patients. So the main objective of treatment when dealing with any form of arthritis is to bring the pain level down as well as to stop your joints from deteriorating further. So the first pitstop in your treatment plan includes determining what works best to lessen your pain. There are a number of people who prefer either ice packs or heating packs to help with the discomfort. 

Several others opt for walkers, canes and similar devices to assist them while walking. These help ease the pressure off your joints and help with the soreness.


It is of vital importance to work on improving the functioning of your joints. So your doctor might prescribe a customised treatment plan that combines various treatment methods for optimum results.

Medicines

Arthritis can be treated with a combination of various medications. These include:

1. Medicines like acetaminophen or hydrocodone, are exceedingly useful for pain management. However, they do not help much in getting the inflammation down.


2. There are several drugs such as salicylates and ibuprofen that are categorised under non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, commonly referred to as NSAIDs, that help keep both your inflammation and pain under control. You should be careful while taking Salicylates as they can thin your blood. So just in case, you’ve already been prescribed blood-thinning medications, you might want to consult a doctor before taking. 


3. The pain signals transmitted to your brain are blocked by creams that have capsaicin or menthol in them. 


4. Cortisone and prednisone are immunosuppressants that help bring down your inflammation. 


5. If your doctor diagnoses you with RA, you might be prescribed DMARDS that stands for disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or corticosteroids. These help quash your immune system. OA, on the other hand, have several medications that are available over the counter, or you can approach a doctor to prescribe your medicines for your symptoms.  

Surgery

Physical Therapy

An option available, if medications do not do the trick, is joint replacement surgery. The focus of this type of surgery is on replacing hips and knees majority of the time. On the other hand, if your arthritis is exceptionally severe in some regions of your body like your wrist or fingers, your doctor might recommend a joint fusion. This procedure includes locking the ends of different bones together until they fuse and become one.

Your doctor might recommend physical therapy that involves exercises focusing on strengthening various muscles around the deteriorating joint. It is a main component of the treatment prescribed in arthritis treatment.

What kind of lifestyle changes should you make to find relief from arthritis?

There is overwhelming evidence that suggests maintaining a healthy weight or reducing your weight can help reduce the risk of OA. It can also help decrease the intensity of your symptoms if you’re already affected by it. Weight loss can take place only when you adhere to a healthy diet. There are various fad diets out there that cause more harm than good. So it is of vital importance that your diet is balanced with foods such as vegetables, herbs, and fresh fruits. These can help reduce inflammation by leaps and bounds. Fish and nuts are part of inflammation-reducing foods that might help manage your symptoms and relieve pain.


You might want to avoid or minimize the consumption of foods that trigger arthritis or make the symptoms worse. These include dairy products, fried foods, excess intake of meat and processed food. Research conducted on the subject testified to specific gluten antibodies being present in the bodies riddled with RA. If this is the case, a diet free of gluten might help relieve you of your symptoms and might stop your disease from progressing. If you have been diagnosed with an undifferentiated disease of connective tissue, studies suggest going on a gluten-free diet can help.  

Focusing on your diet is just one side of the coin. You must also exercise regularly to make sure your joints retain their flexibility. Swimming is a brilliant option to consider to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis-like joint stiffness and to help retain full motion of your joints. It is preferable for people with arthritis to swim rather than walk or run, as it does not put pressure on your joints. While staying active is vital to manage your arthritis symptoms, you should make sure that you do not exert yourself. Rest when your body is tired and demands it, or you might cause more damage than good.



Some of the exercises you can easily do at home include neck rotation or head tilt among others that help reduce the pain in your neck. The pain you experience in your hands can be improved by bending your fingers and thumbs. If you have been diagnosed with knee arthritis, hamstring stretches, leg raises and similar other easy exercises can help provide relief. 

How does arthritis affect your life long term?

Arthritis causes a number of symptoms. While there is no cure discovered yet, the right kind of treatment your doctor prescribes can help provide relief from several symptoms. In addition to this, various lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy diet, and regularly exercising can help deal with your arthritis.