Guide To Arthritis
Types Of Arthritis
|What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints of the body (joints are the point where 2 bones meet). It is characterized by pain, stiffness and swelling in the affected joints. It can vary in severity from a mild ache 'in the bones' to severe stiffness and joint deformity. As there are over 200 types of arthritis, the word 'arthritis' is not a diagnosis in itself but is rather an umbrella term. When examining a patient a doctor will seek to determine the underlying disease. The most common cause is osteoarthritis which usually involves the hips, knees and hands. Rheumatoid arthritis is another common cause where the body's own immune system attacks the joint tissues. While arthritis affects people of all ages, including children, most types tend to occur in older people and women. While there is no cure for most forms of arthritis (unless it is infection related) there is plenty that can be done to control the progression and improve a patient's quality of life.
The 2 most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis - but these are only 2 of the many hundreds which have been identified. Different types have different causes and can affect the body in different ways.
Experts are not sure of the exact causes of arthritis, as many factors appear to contribute to an individual’s likelihood of developing this problem. Risk factors include:
Arthritis symptoms: The type of arthritis a person has determines the sort of symptoms they experience and how long they are likely to last. The majority of people find that their condition gradually becomes worse, although in the early stages it may be difficult for a doctor to predict the exact course the disease will take. Most people experience pain in the affected area, discomfort, stiffness of the joints and fatigue. Over time joints can become scarred and deformed which makes it more difficult for the person to use that part of the body (for example, arthritis of the hands can make it difficult for people to open bottles or hold objects). People experience pain in different ways; some describe arthritic pain as stabbing while others describe it as a constant dull ache. Referred pain is not uncommon, that is where pain originates in one part of the body (say the shoulder) but is experienced in another (such as the hip). Generally most people experience good and bad days.
Arthritis diagnosis: As arthritis is not a diagnosis in itself, it can take a doctor time to determine an exact cause. Sometimes a diagnosis can be reached by taking a patient's medical history and listing of symptoms alone. In other instances a medical examination and certain blood tests will be necessary. Studies show that an early diagnosis can lead to fewer joint deformities and the need for replacement surgery later.
Treatment will depend on the form of arthritis diagnosed. Most forms of chronic inflammatory arthritis are treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and/or corticosteroids. Those with an inflammatory condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis are likely to be referred to a rheumatologist consultant. Those with more 'mechanical' types of arthritis, like osteoarthritis, are less likely to require a referral. Occasionally an orthopedic surgeon may recommend having a joint replaced with a false one called a prosthesis (a procedure known as arthroplasty). Other forms of arthritis treatment include gentle massage and exercise which allows the full range of body movement without stressing the joints (such as swimming). Some people find that physical therapies provide enough pain relief to allow them to avoid taking medications. See also: Natural treatment for arthritis.
Note there is no evidence that any special diet or 'miracle cures' like copper bracelets have any preventative effect on arthritis. However certain types of arthritis equipment can help make every day life a little easier.
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