Arthritis

Arthritis is the inflammation of the either a single or multiple joints in your body. There are several types of arthritis based on the causes, out of which osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common types. Most commonly affected joints are knees, hands, hips, and spine.

As per the estimates of National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), during 2010-2012, around 52.5 million adults (22.7%) were diagnosed with arthritis and around 22.7 million adults (9.8%) had activity limitation attributed to arthritis.

Symptoms

Arthritis symptoms may appear either suddenly or may develop over some time. Symptoms involve only the joints and include:

  • Pain

  • Stiffness and tenderness

  • Warm skin, redness, and swelling of the skin at the joint

  • Weakness and muscle wasting

  • Decreased range of motion

Causes

Wear and tear of the cartilage (connective tissue in the joints which absorbs shock and pressure during the joint use) causes osteoarthritis (OA). Infection or injury to the joint enhances this wear and tear process of the cartilage.

Another type of arthritis is due to an autoimmune infection which leads to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In this condition, the immune cells attack our body cells in the fluid of the joint thereby causing inflammation of the joint. Genetic markers are responsible for these autoimmune disorders.

Risk factors

Age:It is common in people aged above 65 years. However, occasionally even children and adults can also develop the condition.

Several factors increase the risk of salivary gland cancer. Some of them are:

Gender:Women are more likely to develop arthritis compared to men.

Obesity:In overweight people, the joints bear excess weight of the body which increases their risk for arthritis.

Family history:The risk for developing OA is higher in people with a family history of the disease.

Joint injury:People who had an injury in a joint while playing sports may develop arthritis in that joint.

Complications

  • Severe arthritis of the arms and legs can make it difficult to carry out the daily activities. It becomes very difficult to sit or walk if the knee and hip joint are affected.

  • In some patients, arthritis can lead to twisting and deformation of the affected joint.

  • Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density which makes it more likely for fractures to occur is seen in arthritis patients.

  • Sleep disturbances are common due to the severe pain associated with arthritis.

  • Psychological problems such as loss of self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, etc. are seen in such patients.

Diagnosis of arthritis involves careful evaluation of symptoms followed by physical examination.

Test type Purpose of the test
X-rays To understand the extent of damage to the joint
MRI To view the detailed picture of the bones, joints and soft tissues for evaluating the degeneration or damage
Blood tests & laboratory tests To determine the type of arthritis

Treatment of arthritis is aimed to alleviate the symptoms and delay the progression of the condition but it cannot cure the disease. Osteoarthritis treatment may differ from rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Treatment of Osteoarthritis

In minor and initial stages, drugs such as painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents and corticosteroids are used.

If the condition is severe, then surgical therapy is necessary. The below surgical therapies are available for osteoarthritis:

  • Osteotomy (the effected bone is cut and re-aligned)

  • Arthroplasty (joint replacement)

  • Arthrodesis (joint fusion)

Treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment involves the use of painkillers, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), physiotherapy and regular exercises.

There are some promising alternative medicines for treating arthritis as detailed below:

Massage:Kneading of muscles by putting slight pressure helps to increase blood flow causing warmth and relieving pain temporarily.

Acupuncture:Using fine needles at specific points on the skin can help to reduce pain associated with arthritis.

Yoga and Tai Chi:Slow stretching movements caused during yoga and tai chi improves the flexibility and range of motion of the joint.