Understanding More About Your Rheumatoid Arthritis PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 May 2012 22:40
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsens with age. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is usually caused by normal wear and tear, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder (a condition where the body actually attacks itself). Other types of arthritis include gout, infectious arthritis and joint problems associated with diseases such as lupus or psoriasis.

The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis are pain in the joint(s), stiffness, swelling and decreased range of motion.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and involves the wearing away of the cartilage that caps the bones in your joints. With rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial membrane that protects and lubricates joints becomes inflamed, causing pain and swelling. The pain associated with arthritis is caused by joint damage.

In osteoarthritis, wear-and-tear damage to cartilage can result in bone grinding directly on bone, which causes pain and restricts movement. This wear and tear can occur over many years but can come on faster if the joint becomes injured or infected.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks joints and inflames the lining of the joint causing swelling, redness and pain. The disease can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.

Risk factors for arthritis include:
  • Family history
  • Age: The risk of many types of arthritis increases with age.
  • Sex: Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout are men.
  • Previous joint injury
  • Obesity: Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. Obese people have a higher risk of developing arthritis in addition to all other chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and depression.
Depending on the type of arthritis suspected, your doctor may suggest some of the following tests. The analysis of different types of body fluids (blood, urine or joint) can help pinpoint the type of arthritis you may have. To obtain a sample of your joint fluid, your doctor will cleanse and numb the area before inserting a needle in your joint space to withdraw some fluid.

Imaging tests may include typical X-rays or your physician or health care provider may recommend an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. In addition, sometimes looking into the joint (arthroscopy) is necessary.

Arthritis treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. You may need to try several different treatments, or combination of treatments, before you determine what works best for you. Commonly used arthritis medications include:
  • Analgesics: These types of medications help reduce pain, but have no effect on inflammation. Examples include aspirin, Tylenol and narcotic medications such a vicodin.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs reduce both pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve). Some types of NSAIDs are available only by prescription.
  • Counterirritants: Some varieties of creams and ointments contain menthol or capsaicin, the ingredient that makes hot peppers spicy. Rubbing these preparations on the skin over your aching joint may interfere with the transmission of pain signals from the joint itself.
  • Disease-modifying medications: Often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, these strong medications slow or stop your immune system from attacking your joints.
  • Corticosteroids: This class of drug, which includes prednisone and cortisone, reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system. Corticosteroids can be taken by mouth or be injected directly into the painful joint.

Physical therapy can be helpful for some types of arthritis. Exercises can improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding joints. In some cases, splints or braces may be warranted. If conservative measures don’t help, surgery might be an alternative you’ll discuss with your health care provider. Eventually the joint may need to be replaced.

A healthy lifestyle helps as a treatment for arthritis and so many other conditions:
  • Weight loss: If you’re obese, losing weight will reduce the stress on your weight-bearing joints. This may increase your mobility and limit future joint injury.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help keep your joints flexible. Swimming or water aerobics is often a good choice because the buoyancy of the water reduces stress on weight-bearing joints.
  • Heat and cold: Heating pads or ice packs may help relieve arthritis pain.
  • Assistive devices: Using canes, walkers, raised toilet seats and other assistive devices can help protect your joints and improve your ability to perform daily tasks.

Many people use alternative remedies for arthritis including acupuncture, glucosamine, tens unit therapy, yoga and tai chi.

Source: Lacagnina, S (2012), "Words on Wellness: Healthy lifestyle moderates onset of arthritis as we age"; News-press.com; Original article can be found here.

 
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