What you need to know about Arthritis

Facts & Stats

Arthritis is an extremely common form of deteriorating illness that distresses elderly men and women. It occurs extensively in both developing as well as developed countries. The ailment works as a lingering and advanced musculoskeletal disorder which is identified by a steady damage of cartilage within the joints. This leads to the bones rubbing with each other. The resulting friction causes pain and stiffness along with impaired movement. Arthritis can affect various joints of the body, including the knees, hands, hips, spine and feet. In India, arthritis is known to affect around 15% of all people, which is more than 180 million men and women. The prevalence of arthritis is even higher than other well known conditions such as AIDS, cancer and diabetes.

Symptoms

The symptoms of arthritis depend on the specific type of condition that has affected a person. Here are the main forms of arthritic conditions that you should know about.   

  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Septic arthritis
  • Joint infections
  • Thumb arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Most of the symptoms of arthritis are associated with the joints. Based on the kind of arthritis that you have, you can have any of the following symptoms: 

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Reduced range of motion

Causes

There are primarily two types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis which damage the joints in two different ways.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most widely occurring type of arthritis and it causes wearing and tearing of the cartilage of the joint. This makes it difficult to move the joint. The cartilage makes it easier to move the joint. However, when it has gone through wearing and tearing, it makes movement of the joint difficult. The cushioning effect of the cartilage ensures frictionless joint motion. However, once osteoarthritis develops, it leads to pain along with restricted movement. Osteoarthritis can gradually develop over many years or get triggered by some kind of injury. It affects the whole joint and leads to deterioration of the bones and the connective tissues attaching the muscles to the bone for holding the joint together. The condition also leads to inflammations of joint lining.

Rheumatoid arthritis

With rheumatoid arthritis, a patient’s immune system begins to bout the joint capsule coating which is regarded as a hard casing enclosing the joint parts. It leads to the swelling of the synovial membrane. Rheumatoid arthritis can harm the bone and tendon within the joint. 

Some of the common risk factors associated with arthritis are listed below:

Family history

Certain types of arthritic conditions run in the families. This means that if your parents or grandparents have them, you run the risk of getting affected by them. In fact, your genes can make you vulnerable to arthritis. 

Age

Increased age can enhance the chances of arthritic conditions such as osteoarthritis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Sex 

Women are typically more prone to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, men are more vulnerable to gout.

Obesity

Excess body weight puts a lot of pressure on the joints like hips, knees and spine. This means that obese people are highly susceptible to suffer from arthritis. 

A previous instance of joint injury

If you have already suffered from a joint injury, maybe while playing a sport or some other activity, you are more prone than others to get affected by arthritis.

 

Diagnosis

The doctor will first carry out a thorough check up of the joints to find if there are any signs of redness or swelling. He or she is also going to check how easily you can move the joints. Next, the doctor is going to perform certain diagnostic tests. These tests include evaluation of bodily fluids such as joint fluid, blood and urine. 

The imaging tests that may be performed to confirm arthritis include X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans and ultrasound. X-rays can help in detecting bone spurs, cartilage loss as well as bone damage. While X-rays might not reveal any signs of early arthritic damage, they can be helpful in tracking progression of the condition. CT scanners taken from numerous many different angles can be used to come up with cross-sectional views of the internal structures. This can help in visualizing the bone structure as well as the surrounding layers of soft tissues.

MRI scans help to combine radio waves having controlling magnetic field to create extremely thorough and clear cross-sectional images of tissues like the cartilage, ligaments and tendons. With ultrasound, it is possible to make use of high frequency sound waves for producing images of the soft tissues, the cartilages and the fluid-containing structures close to the joints. The ultrasound can also be used for guiding the needle placement during injections and joint aspirations. 

 

Treatment

If the arthritic condition is still at its early stages, the doctor can mention physical therapy to manage the condition. Sometimes exercises can enhance the range of motion and also boost strength in the muscles and around the joints. Braces and splints can also be used to manage the condition. In cases where such measures do not work, the doctor may recommend surgical methods like joint repair, joint fusion or joint replacement. The exact nature of individual cases must be considered before choosing the appropriate surgery. The prognosis of surgery is usually good, although it can take some time for the patient to regain the strength of the joint.