Introduction to Arthritis
Arthritis is a chronic disease that refers to a health condition where there is a damage caused to the joints of the body. The term arthritis is essentially defined as ‘inflammation of joints’.
When a joint is inflamed, it may be swollen, tender, warm to the touch or red. The joint pain of arthritis can appear as hip pain, knee pain, hand pain, or wrist pain, as well as joint pain in other areas of the body.
Research indicates that as many as one in three adults in the United States suffer from symptoms of arthritis. Arthritis is also considered as the leading cause of disability over the age of 65.
Types of Arthritis
Arthritis is categorized into two types:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is as an autoimmune disease, causing chronic inflammation of the joints and the tissue around the joints, along with other organs in the body.
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage and may affect any joint in the body, including those in the fingers, hips, knees, lower back and feet.
Forms of Arthritis
Arthritis inflicts individuals in many forms, each having its own typical characteristics. The primary forms of arthritis include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Septic arthritis
- Gout and pseudogout
- Juvenile arthritis
- Still’s disease
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Symptoms of Arthritis
Different types of arthritis have different symptoms. In general, people with most forms of arthritis have pain and stiffness in their joints. The arthritis symptoms may come up suddenly or slowly over time and may include sleeplessness, fatigue, depression and muscle aches.
Many people also experience some difficulty functioning at home, work or play because of joint pain, stiffness and loss of motion, regardless of the type of arthritis they have.
Arthritis pain and joint stiffness even lead to difficulty in performing daily activities such as getting out of the bed, buttoning buttons, writing, sewing, cooking, dressing, sleeping, walking, climbing stairs and the like.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Arthritis
Arthritis, as a general term describes more than 100 diseases affecting the joints and connective tissues. Following measures are normally adopted to establish diagnosis of arthritis:
- Physical examination to check for tenderness, redness, warmth, stiffness or fluid in a joint
- Personal and family medical history
Diagnostic Tools in Arthritis
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Removal of fluid from swollen joint for examination
The choice of treatment depends on the type of arthritis, the severity of symptoms, the patient’s general health and other factors.
Various types of medication are prescribed for relief from different symptoms of arthritis. These include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- COX-2 drugs
- Injection therapy
- Prednisone and other corticosteroids
- TNF-alpha inhibitors
- Topical painkillers
- Abatacept: A new drug for rheumatoid arthritis treatment.