By Medifit Education.
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that first targets the lining of joints (synovium).
Uric acid crystals, infections or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, can cause other types of arthritis.
Treatments vary depending on the type of arthritis. The main goals of arthritis treatments are to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
What is Arthritis?
The word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation.” Inflammation is one of the body’s natural reactions to disease or injury, and includes swelling, pain, and stiffness. Inflammation that lasts for a very long time or recurs, as in arthritis, can lead to tissue damage.
A joint is where two or more bones come together, such as the hip or knee. The bones of a joint are covered with a smooth, spongy material called cartilage, which cushions the bones and allows the joint to move without pain. The joint is lined by a thin film of tissue called the synovium. The synovium’s lining produces a slippery fluid called synovial fluid that nourishes the joint and helps reduce friction. Strong bands of tissue, called ligaments, connect the bones and help keep the joint stable. Muscles and tendons also support the joints and enable you to move.
With arthritis, an area in or around a joint becomes inflamed, causing pain, stiffness and, sometimes, difficulty moving. Some types of arthritis also affect other parts of the body, such as the skin and internal organs.
Types of Arthritis
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Some of the more common types include:
This is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage covering the end of the bones gradually wears away. Without the protection of the cartilage, the bones begin to rub against each other and the resulting friction leads to pain and swelling. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but most often affects the hands and weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip and facet joints (in the spine). Osteoarthritis often occurs as the cartilage breaks down, or degenerates, with age or overuse. For this reason, osteoarthritis is sometimes called degenerative joint disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis.Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-lasting disease that can affect joints in any part of the body except the lower back and most commonly involves the hands, wrists, knees, and feet. With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system — the body’s defense system against disease — mistakenly attacks itself and causes the joint lining to swell. The inflammation then spreads to the surrounding tissues, and can eventually damage cartilage and bone. In more severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis can affect other areas of the body, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, and nerves.
Gout is a painful condition that occurs when the body cannot eliminate a natural substance called uric acid. The excess uric acid forms needle-like crystals in the joints that cause intense inflammation. Gout most often affects the big toe, knee, and wrist joints.
What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
Different types of arthritis have different symptoms and the symptoms vary in severity from person to person. Osteoarthritis does not generally cause any symptoms outside the joint. Symptoms of other types of arthritis may include fatigue, fever, a rash, and the signs of joint inflammation, including:
What causes arthritis?
Some types of arthritis are genetic or inherited (i.e., they tend to run in families). Others are related to a chemical imbalance or are due to an overactive immune system. All forms of arthritis affect the joints to some degree, but others may have their most serious effects on other parts of the body.
OA is the most common form of arthritis, primarily affecting people over the age of 60 years, or in younger people who have had serious joint injuries. It is degenerative in nature – cartilage in the joints gradually wears away, causing the ends of the bones to rub against each other.
OA can develop spontaneously for no apparent reason or be due to a secondary cause, where the joint damage results from an injury or trauma. By far the greatest risk factor for OA of the hips and joints of the legs is being overweight.
Wear-and-tear is the principal sign of OA, but science has begun to unravel the specific mechanisms of the disease. Inflammation does not play as great a role as in other types of arthritis, but for some people it can be a prominent feature. An athlete who has suffered joint injuries or someone who works in a job that puts daily stress on the joints is at higher risk of developing OA later in life.
RA is caused by inflammation and thickening of the joint’s lining, called the synovium. Scientists suspect that inflammatory forms of arthritis such as RA may be triggered by bacterial or viral infections heightened by a flaw in the body’s immune system, but no proof has been found yet. The result is an abnormal immune response that destroys the body’s own tissues. In the case of RA, the joints are the primary target.
Some forms of arthritis are due to metabolic problems, called crystal-associated arthritis. These include gout and pseudogout, which are caused by crystal deposits within the joints. 80% of gout sufferers are men, but women become equally prone after menopause. Gout may be genetic, but it can also be precipitated by excessive alcohol consumption, dehydration, obesity, protein-rich diets, trauma, and conditions that suddenly break down large amounts of tissue. Gout results from the accumulation of uric acid, a waste product from the breakdown of digested proteins. Excess uric acid forms sodium urate crystals that collect in many tissues, including the joint linings, which causes inflammation. It can also lead to kidney stones.
As there are so many forms of arthritis, there isn’t a single answer to this question.
Most types of arthritis are caused by many factors acting together. You may be naturally more likely to develop certain disorders as a result of your genetic make-up. A variety of external factors may increase the risk further if you’re susceptible to the condition in question. These include environmental factors – e.g. previous injury, infection, smoking, and occupations which are very demanding physically. But for many conditions there’s a strong element of chance.
Genetics and family risks
Most forms of arthritis run in families to a small extent. The way your body is made (based on the genes passed on from your parents) makes you more or less likely to develop the disease in question. Arthritis Research UK supports research that’s helping us to understand the genetic side of arthritis. We believe this could lead to the ability to prevent some forms of arthritis.
Lifestyle and trigger factors
Arthritis can start suddenly without any obvious cause, and at any age. Sometimes something in your lifestyle or medical history – or a combination of these – could be responsible. A number if factors may increase your risk of developing a condition if you’re already susceptible to it:
- A physically demanding job can increase your risk of osteoarthritis, particularly if it involves heavy repetitive activity.
- A previous injury can also increase your risk of osteoarthritis.
- Infections or an allergic reaction can cause short-lived arthritis.
- Some foods may appear to make your arthritis worse, although your diet or a food intolerance are unlikely to cause arthritis.
How Common Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is very common. It has been estimated that as many as 70 million Americans — or about one in three — have some form of arthritis or joint pain. It is a major cause of lost work time and serious disability for many people. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, affects more than 20 million Americans. Arthritis affects people of all ages, but is more common in older adults.
How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?
Osteoarthritis is typically diagnosed with a complete medical history, including a description of your symptoms and a physical exam. Imaging techniques — such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — are used to show the condition of the joints. If other types of arthritis are suspected, lab tests on blood, urine, and joint fluid may be helpful in determining the type of arthritis. These tests also can help rule out other diseases as the cause of your symptoms.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Septic Arthritis
The joints that are affected are typically swollen, painful, and red. A fever, something not seen in cases of non-septic arthritis, may be present since you know that a fever helps to fight off infection. Therefore, if you have a fever combined with a swollen joint after a penetrating injury, you might want to see a doctor immediately.
Besides looking for clinical signs and symptoms I outlined, another very telling way to diagnose septic arthritis is by taking an aspirate, a little sample by way of syringe and needle, of some joint fluid. In cases of an infectious cause of arthritis, there will be tons of white blood cells in the joint when there should be virtually none. Those white blood cells are the things that try and kill off the infection. So, if you see a lot of white blood cells in a joint, then you know it’s infected, kind of like if you see a traffic light turn yellow then you know it’s going to be followed by a red light. One follows the other just like lots of white blood cells inevitably follow an infectious agent around.
By Medifit Education.