Arthritis is a group of conditions known by inflammation that causes pain and stiffness in one or more joints of the body. The condition may be acute, severe and short lived or chronic- a constant dull ache.
There are different types of arthritis and many causes, each has its own characteristics. Not all run a chronic course. It affects both men and women, even children.
Types of Arthritis
There are many types but common ones are:
- Osteoarthritis: The covering of the ends of bones (cartilage) is worn away, causing the bones to rub together. It affects weight bearing joints like the knees, hips and spine and the hands. It is the most common type of arthritis affecting people over 55years of age, about 74% of those affected are women.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Is a self immune disorder whereby the body’s immune system produce antibodies that attack the sac enclosing a joint (synovial membrane). It is most common between the ages of 40 and 60, children may also be affected. Several joints are affected at the same time.
- Gout: This is the inflammation of the joint due to high level of waste product (Uric Acid). The cause is failure of the kidney to eliminate the waste product or increased intake of high protein and fat diet and large amount of alcohol. It occurs in a single joint, the base of the big toe is most commonly affected. It is 20 times more common in men. People aged 30 and 50 years are most affected and tends to increase with age.
- Psuedogout: Crystals formed from a chemical called pyro-phosphate are deposited in the joints.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis: It causes chronic, progressive inflammation of the joints and ligaments that normally permit the spine to move. The vertebrae may fuse and grow together, causing the spine to become rigid and inflexible. Other like the shoulder, knees or ankles may also be involved. Young adult men and women are equally affected but usually more severe in men.
- Septic (Infectious): Arthritis caused by micro organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi etc. that may be spread through the blood stream from infected tissue. It does not run a chronic course.
- Age: Though it can develop at any age but chances increase from 40 years and above.
- Gender: Most types are more common in women, 60% of cases are women but gout is more common in men.
- Genetics: Most cases run in families.
Risk Factors We Can Control
- Overweight/obesity: Excess weight puts pressure on joints.
- Joint injury: Damage to a joint can cause arthritis in the joint.
- Infection: Many micro organisms can infect joints and cause various forms of arthritis.
- Occupation: Certain occupation involving repetitive knee bending and squatting.
Signs and Symptoms
- Joint pain and tenderness that worsens during activity.
- Swelling at the joint
- Fever in some cases
- Joint stiffness and warmth
- Restricted movement
- Cracking noise on moving the joint
- Deformity in severe cases.
- Pain which may be short-lived or chronic
- Difficulty in performing daily activities
- Drugs used in treating arthritis eg- steroids, Non steroid, Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), predispose to stomach ulcer.
Each type is different and calls for different treatment; therefore accurate diagnosis is needed for treatment. As a long-life condition (chronic), the aim of treatment is to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
The following measures can be helpful
- Medications to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Weight reduction.
- Food rich in fruits and vegetables, walnut and soya beans.
- Mild exercise as walking, swimming.
- Operation as the last option to rebuild or replace the joint.
Post Source: Health Education Unit, Clinical Services Department, F.M.C. Owerri