Arthritis is inflammation of joints, the inflammation can affect one or more of your joints. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. Severe cases of arthritis can lead to disability. Although people of all ages, genders and races can have arthritis, it occurs more common when people age.
Common symptoms of arthritis joint include:
- chronic pain
- decreased range of motion
- difficult to walk
- difficult to climb stairs
Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. The pain and stiffness may come and go. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes, these changes can be seen on X-ray.
A joint is formed where the ends of two bones meet, the articular cartilage is the slick, cushioning surface on the end of a bone, the joint cavity contains synovial fluid secreted by the synovial membrane. Synovial fluid is present in all joints in small quantities to lubricate the joint, it ensures perfect sliding between the bone ends.
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. Most common ones are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, others include infectious arthritis and metabolic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, it’s a degenerative arthritis. When the cartilage – the cushion- wears and tears, bone rubs against bone, over time it causes pain, stiffness, swelling and weakness.
Risk factors of osteoarthritis include obesity, over use, family history, age and previous injury.
Rheumatoid arthritis(RA) is a type of autoimmune disease, a awry immune system attacks the healthy cells of your synovial membrane, which secrets synovial fluid to lubricate your joint, leading to uncontrolled inflammation, and over time erose the joint cartilage and bone.
Risk factors of rheumatoid arthritis include genetic and environmental ones. Smoking is an example of an environmental risk factor.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that features red patches of skin with silvery scales. Around 30 percent of people who have psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis (PsA).
Most people have skin conditions earlier than having symptoms in joint. A small portion of people can have joint condition first.
A bacterium, virus or fungus can enter the joint and trigger inflammation. Examples of organisms that can infect joints are salmonella and shigella (food poisoning or contamination), chlamydia and gonorrhea (sexually transmitted diseases) and hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection, often through shared needles or transfusions).
A typical case of metabolic arthritis is a gout. Some people have high levels of uric acid, the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, or a gout attack.
Arthritis diagnosis often begins with a physical exam. Your doctor will check your joints for swelling, redness, warmth, and see how well you can move your joints. Your doctor will suspect one or more types of arthritis, and suggest tests to confirm.
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Joint fluid test
Arthritis treatment focuses on relieving symptoms, preserving joint function, mobility and quality of life.
Commonly used arthritis medications include:
- Analgesics – these are pain relievers. Examples include acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), tramadol (Ultram, Ultracet, others) and narcotics containing oxycodone (Percocet, Oxycontin, others) or hydrocodone (Norco, Vicoprofen, others).
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – reduce both pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Side effects of oral NSAIDs include stomach irritation, and increase in risk of heart attack or stroke. Topical NSAIDs in cream or ointment can be applied to the joint.
- Counterirritants – most of counterirritants are in creams and ointments. Such creams and ointments contain menthol or capsaicin, the ingredient that makes hot peppers spicy. When rubbing these preparations on your joint, the feeling of either cooling or spice may interfere with the transmission of pain signals, so as to make you feel the pain less noticeable.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) – often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, DMARDs slow or stop your immune system from attacking your joints. Examples include methotrexate (Trexall) and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil).
- Biologic response modifiers – typically used in conjunction with DMARDs, biologic response modifiers are genetically engineered drugs that target various protein molecules that are involved in the immune response. Examples include etanercept (Enbrel) and infliximab (Remicade).
- Corticosteroids – prednisone and cortisone, reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or be injected directly into the painful joint.
If conservative measures don’t help, your doctor may suggest surgery, such as:
- joint repair
- joint replacement
- joint fusion
- balancing activity with rest
- using hot and cold therapies
- regular physical activity
- maintaining a healthy weight
- strengthening the muscles around the joint for added support
- using assistive devices
- avoiding excessive repetitive movements