What is Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)?
Arthritis is a medical condition where there is inflammation of the joints. Symptoms chiefly comprise of stiffness and pain in the joints. These symptoms increase in intensity as the patient ages. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two commonest types of arthritis. The cause of osteoarthritis is wear and tear of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder. Whereas, the rest of the types of arthritis may be caused by infection, uric acid crystals, or other underlying medical disorders (psoriasis, lupus). Treatment depends on the type of arthritis and the main aim of treatment is to alleviate or decrease the intensity of the symptoms so that the patient can lead a better quality of life.
Causes of Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
For understanding the cause of arthritis, lets looks at how a joint functions. A joint is formed where one bone slides on another bone. The 2 bones are held together by ligaments. The surface of the bone is covered by cartilage in order to prevent direct contact and rubbing of the two bones. The cartilage also helps in smooth and painless functioning of joints. The joint is surrounded by a capsule and the space in between is filled with synovial fluid, which helps in nourishing the cartilage and joint. Patients suffering from arthritis have some problem or disorder with their joints. The problem depends on the type of arthritis.
Some of the Common Causes of Arthritis (Joint Inflammation) Include:
- Wear and tear of cartilage.
- Decrease in the synovial fluid.
- Autoimmune infections.
- And other combination of factors.
Risk Factors for Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
- Family history of arthritis increases the risk of having this condition.
- As a person ages, the risk of arthritis also increases.
- Gender plays a huge role, as women are at increased risk to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
- Injury to the joint also increases the risk of developing arthritis in the injured joint.
- People who are overweight are at a higher risk for developing arthritis.
Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
Common Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis (Joint Inflammation) are:
- Pain and tenderness in the affected joints.
- Stiffness in the affected joints.
- Swelling in the affected joints.
- Redness in the affected joints.
- Decreased range of motion in the affected joints.
Investigations for Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
- Physical exam and medical history.
- Blood tests, urine tests and joint fluid tests help in determining the type of arthritis the patient suffers from.
- X-rays help in assessing the cartilage loss, damage to the bone, and bone spurs. They also help in tracking the progression of arthritis.
- CT (Computerized Tomography) scan helps in visualizing bone as well as the surrounding soft tissues.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) gives more detailed images of the soft tissues.
- Ultrasound helps in guiding the needle for injections and joint aspirations.
- Arthroscopy is done by inserting an arthroscope which is a small, flexible tube, via an incision near the joint. This arthroscope helps in transmitting images internally from inside the joint to a screen.
Treatment for Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
The aim of treatment is alleviating symptoms and improving function of the joints and the patient’s quality of life. Treatment for arthritis (joint inflammation) comprises of:
- Analgesics such as acetaminophen, tramadol and Oxycontin help in reducing the pain.
- NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, help in relieving pain as well as inflammation. NSAIDS are also available in cream or gel forms and can be rubbed on the affected joints.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine, are commonly used for treating rheumatoid arthritis. They help in slowing or stopping the immune system from attacking the joints.
- Biologics or biologic response modifiers, such as etanercept and infliximab, are genetically engineered drugs, which target different protein molecules which are present in the immune response.
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and cortisone, help in decreasing the inflammation and suppressing the immune system. They can be taken orally or can be injected into the affected joint.
- Physical therapy benefits in some arthritis types. It helps in increasing the range of motion and strengthening the joint muscles.
- Splints or braces can be used by some patients.
- Alternative therapy medicines such as acupuncture, Glucosamine, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), Yoga and tai chi can be beneficial and may be tried.
Surgery for Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
Surgery is done if conservative measures fail to help. Surgery for arthritis (joint inflammation) comprises of:
- Joint replacement where the damaged joint is replaced with an artificial one.
- Joint fusion is done for smaller joints (wrist, ankle, fingers). In this procedure, the ends of the two joint bones are removed and these are fused together till they heal as one firm unit.
Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies for Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
- Weight loss helps in decreasing the stress on the weight-bearing joints and enhances mobility and decreases the risk of further injury to the joints.
- Exercising regularly helps in increasing the flexibility of the joints. Swimming or water aerobics are especially beneficial, as they reduce the stress on the weight-bearing joints.
- Heat and cold application helps in relieving pain from arthritis.
- Assistive devices, such as walkers, canes, raised toilet seats, help in ambulating and protecting the joints.
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