Arthritis: A Common Joint Disorder

Arthritis: A Common Joint Disorder

"Arthritis" means joint inflammation or the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, leading to the bones rubbing against each other, causing joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. It can occur in any joint but is most commonly found in the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, and hips. There are many types of arthritis. Common ones include the following-

 

  • Ankylosing spondylitis- causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine.
  • Gout- occurs as flares, typically in the big toe or a lower limb.
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis- represents the most common type of chronic arthritis that affects children.
  • Osteoarthritis- represents the most common type of arthritis, particularly in older people.
  • Psoriatic arthritis- mainly occurs in people with psoriasis (scaly red and white skin patches) and involves the skin, joints, and areas where tissues adhere to the bone.
  • Reactive arthritis- occurs due to an infection in the body. Symptoms often resolve on their own within a few weeks or months.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis- represents an autoimmune type of arthritis where the immune system attacks the healthy joint tissues.

 

Symptoms and Risk Factors Associated with Arthritis 

 

A person with arthritis may experience different symptoms depending upon the type of manifestation. However, the most common sign and symptoms of arthritis include the following:

  • Joint pain and stiffness that is worse in the morning or after long periods of inactivity
  • Warmth and redness around the affected joint
  • Swelling 
  • Decreased range of motion. 

Other symptoms may include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and muscle weakness.

 

Risk factors for developing arthritis include age, family history, obesity, prior joint injury, and certain medical conditions. Additionally, gender may play a role in developing some forms of arthritis, as some types are more common in women than men.

  • Family history – Genetics can trigger some types of arthritis.
  • Age – Ageing is a risk factor for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. 
  • Gender- Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while men are more prone to gout.
  • Previous joint injury- Injury in a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, boosts the chances of developing arthritis in that joint.
  • Obesity – Excessive body weight puts stress on joints, particularly knees, hips, and spine, and increases the risk of developing arthritis.

 

Complications - Severe arthritis can interfere with daily tasks, mainly if it affects the hands or arms. In some cases, joints may slowly alter their alignment and shape. Arthritis of weight-bearing joints can refrain from walking comfortably or sitting up straight.

Diagnosis Procedures to Detect Arthritis

 

Diagnosis of arthritis typically involves a physical examination, patient and family history, laboratory tests, and imaging tests. 

 

  • Physical Examination - During the physical examination for arthritis, doctors check the joints for swelling, redness, and warmth. They'll also review the movement of the joints.
  • Laboratory investigations - Analyzing various body fluids can help determine the type of arthritis. Fluids commonly analyzed are blood, urine, and joint fluid. To collect a sample of joint fluid, doctors cleanse and numb the area before placing a needle into the joint space to draw out some fluid.
  • Imaging - Imaging modalities assist in detecting the problems within the joint that may be causing the symptoms. Examples include:

o   X-rays- They reveal cartilage loss, bone destruction, and bone spurs. X-rays may not show early arthritic damage but can track the progression of the disease.

o   Computerized tomography (CT)- They create cross-sectional views of internal structures and help visualize bone and the surrounding soft tissues.

o   Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)- It produces more precise cross-sectional images of soft tissues like cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

o   Ultrasound- It images soft tissues, cartilage, and fluid-containing structures near the joints (bursae). Also, it helps direct needle placement for drawing joint fluid or injecting drugs into the joint.

 

Treatment for Arthritis

 

Treatments for arthritis vary depending on the type of arthritis. The therapy aims to reduce the symptoms and improve the quality of life. The physician may try several treatments or combinations of treatments before determining what works best for an individual. The treatment modalities for managing arthritis include-

·       Medications -

o   Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for relieving pain and inflammation; 

o   Counterirritants for applying topically over the skin to relieve pain; 

o   Steroids for relieving inflammation, pain, and slow joint damage; 

o   Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) decline the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and protect the joints and other tissues from permanent damage.

·       Physical therapy- can help in some types of arthritis. Joints can be strengthened, and their range of motion can be improved by exercise. However, some cases may demand splints or braces.

·       Surgery- It may be recommended when conservative measures fail and include-

o   Joint repair that smoothes or realigns the joint surfaces to reduce pain and improve function; 

o   A joint replacement that removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial one (majorly performed in hips and knees); 

o   Joint fusion is employed in smaller joints, like those in the wrist, ankle, and fingers. 

 

Tips for Maintaining Joint Health

 

Getting enough physical activity helps to prevent or slow joint disorders. Exercise strengthens the muscles around the joints and allows them to perform better.

 

While playing sports, wearing the right equipment to protect the joints, such as knee pads, is essential. If the joint problems have already started, ask your provider what activities are best for you.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Arthritis is now becoming a common problem due to the changing lifestyle. Staying active and performing muscle-strengthening exercises to maintain quality of life is crucial. If you experience any joint symptoms, don't hesitate to visit the physician immediately. Early diagnosis can prevent further damage to the bone.

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Mrs. Mayuri Mathur

Mrs. Mayuri Mathur is a Senior Medical Writer (Patient education and digital) and seasoned content creator with a rich tapestry of expertise spanning over ten years. With a diverse background in content creation, she brings a wealth of experience to the table, from crafting insightful medical articles to developing comprehensive patient education materials, dynamic press releases, and captivating brochures and website content. Throughout her illustrious career, she has demonstrated an exceptional knack for distilling complex medical concepts into easily understandable content, making her a trusted resource for both professionals and lay audiences alike. Her meticulous attention to detail and innate creativity have enabled her to deliver content that not only informs but also engages and inspires. Whether elucidating intricate medical procedures or crafting compelling marketing materials, her versatility and dedication shine through in every project she undertakes. Her passion for writing, coupled with her profound understanding, makes her an invaluable asset to any team or project. In a constantly evolving digital landscape, where effective communication is paramount, Mrs. Mayuri Mathur stands out as a beacon of excellence, consistently delivering top-notch content that resonates with audiences across diverse platforms.

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