Arthritis means inflammation of the joint. The cause of different arthritis is different. Arthritis is a progressive condition and the condition becomes severe if remains untreated. Symptoms include pain, inflammation, joint deformation, and muscle stiffness.
Various types of arthritis are present. However, the most common types of arthritis that are highly prevalent among the patients are:
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is caused when the cartilage present on the tip of the bones gets damaged and the tips of the bones rub each other during movement. This friction between the bones causes pain and inflammation. Osteoarthritis is generally found in weight-bearing joints.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: It is a type of autoimmune disease. In this condition, the immune system of the body attacks its own bones and joints leading to pain and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is generally found in smaller joints such as joints of fingers.
- Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis is also an autoimmune disease but apart from attacking the bones and joints it also affects the skin as well as connective tissue attached to bones. This causes pain and inflammation.
- Gout: When the concentration of uric acid increases in the serum, it crystallizes into joints. These are needle-shaped crystals which cause pain and inflammation.
- Fibromyalgia: Although not localized to the bones and joints, fibromyalgia is caused through the central nervous system.
- Normal wear and tear: Osteoarthritis is generally caused due to normal wear and tear of the joints. The condition is more pronounce in old age when the rate of cartilage regeneration is slow.
- Abnormal immune mechanism: Arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis is caused due to a normal immune system. These diseases are known as the autoimmune diseases as the tissues and joints are damaged by own immune system.
- Obesity: Obesity and high body weight are one of the reasons for developing osteoarthritis. The weight-bearing joints are under continuous stress which results in rapid destruction of cartilage.
- Hyperuricemia: Gouty arthritis is caused due to high uric acid levels in the blood. Uric acid crystals get deposited in the joints causing pain and inflammation.
- Infection: Infection also causes pain and inflammation in the joints. Septic arthritis may be caused when the infection from its primary sites such as kidney or lungs spread to joints through blood.
- Joint trauma: Any trauma or disease of the joints may also cause inflammation in the joints.
- Pain and inflammation: During arthritis, joints and surrounding tissues get damaged. This result in the initiation of inflammation which causes pain.
- Difficulty movement: When the joints have pain and inflammation, movement of joints becomes slow and the patient has difficulty in movement such as walking or holding something.
- Joint deformation: As seen in gouty arthritis, the joint inflammation may also lead to bone deformation.
- Joint stiffness: The muscle of the joint such as skeletal muscle becomes stiff and the patient experiences pain during movement.
- Progressive condition: Arthritis, if not properly managed, is a progressive condition. Thus arthritis of any type progresses into a more severe form which reduces the joint movement.
How to diagnose
- Physical examination: Physical examination is one of the important diagnostic tools for arthritis. Although different arthritis presents different symptoms, the affected joint develops pain and inflammation. Further, if more than one joint is affected, doctors evaluate the joint counts for analyzing the severity of the disease.
- Imaging techniques: Various imaging techniques are used for diagnosing the health of the joints. X-ray is the most widely used diagnostic technique but, in some cases,, the physician may also advise ultrasound and MRI.
- Blood test: Different blood test markers are used to diagnose different arthritis. For instance, for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis, a blood test is done for identifying antibodies while for gouty arthritis, uric acid levels are under analysis.
Risk neglecting Arthritis
Arthritis is a progressive disease and untreated arthritis may further deteriorate the condition of joints as well as of the body. Untreated arthritis causes continuous pain and inflammation which significantly reduces the quality of life.
If the rheumatoid arthritis is not properly managed, it may lead to overall malaise and fatigue. Further, the immune system is busy in attacking its own tissues and organs, the patient is at high risk for infection.
Untreated osteoarthritis increases osteonecrosis and the risk of fracture increases. Arthritis also worsens the health of tendons and ligaments.
Following are the stages of arthritis:
- Minor arthritis: This is the initial phase characterized by little damage to cartilage and the patient does not feel pain.
- Mild arthritis: The cartilage further damages and the X-ray clearly depicts osteophyte growth. The patient started feeling mild pain.
- Moderate arthritis: The space between the bones gets narrowed and the cartilage loss is even in X-ray. This stage is characterized by pain, inflammation, and swelling.
- Severe arthritis: This stage is characterized by almost complete loss of cartilage and increased friction between bones. Stiff joints, intense pain and inflammation, and reduced movement are the symptoms of this stage.
Following are the foods which help in managing the symptoms of arthritis:
- Vitamin C and citrus fruits
- Broccoli and spinach
- Walnuts and berries
- Olive oil
- Green tea
- Whole grains
- Exercise: Exercise increases the blood flow in the joints which helps in strengthening the muscles and improve joint health.
- Weight loss: Weight should be under control to prevent arthritis.
- Healthy diet: Diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids help improve joint health.
- Care your joints: Prevent any injury to your joints as this may accelerate wear and tear.
- Visit regularly for joint health: If you are at risk for arthritis, regularly visit the physician to maintain joint health.
When to see a doctor
Book an appointment with your doctor if:
- You experience pain and inflammation in joints
- You experience stiff muscles and joints
- You have difficulty in movement
- You are not able to exercise due to pain
- You have prolonged joint symptoms