Arthritis is the condition which refers to Pain in the joints due to inflammation of one or more joints. It is a form of joint disorder. Arthritis is not a single disease but a group of 100 rheumatic disease and conditions which may cause pain, swellings and stiffness in the joints. So it is a type of joint disorder. Any part of the body can become afflicted with Arthritis.
When a person has Arthritis, then the condition is normally accompanied by joint pain, swelling around the joints, redness and warmth around the joint and tenderness. There is discomfort in movements of the hands, knees and legs and the discomfort increases with the passage of time.
The Arthritis patient finds it difficult to walk without support with the movements limited and most of the times the patients confine themselves to the house to avoid walking and climbing of stairs.
Arthritis is not contagious so it cannot be passed on from person to person except in the genes due to heredity. The other causes are: Age, wear and tear, low bone density and depletion of calcium in the body. Women are more likely to be affected than men.
Injury, trauma, obesity, unbalanced diet and a sedentary lifestyle are the risk factors.
There are many types of Arthritis which affect the human body and the signs and symptoms may differ but the common early symptoms are:
Tenderness in and around the joint.
Limited movement of the joints.
Redness and warmth around the joints.
These are the common signs and there are two broad types of Arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Another type is juvenile Arthritis (JA) - an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children of ages 16 and younger.
The Rheumatoid Arthritis is inflammatory Arthritis and is the result of an Auto-Immunity disorder [where the immune system of the body attacks its own cells]. Rheumatoid Arthritis is characterized by:
- Joint pain, Joint swelling, stiffness and warmth around the affected joint.
- Stiffness of joints in the morning which lasts for one or more hours.
- Same joint in both the sides of the body is affected, for eg the knee joints.
- Small joints of hands and feet are affected.
- Firm lumps are formed under the skin, under the elbow.
- Fatigue, Loss of energy, flu like symptoms, dry eyes and mouth, flare-up and re-occurrence of diseases and depression.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of Arthritis affecting millions of people. There are many types of osteoarthritis depending upon the area affected. It is characterized by the following signs and symptoms:
- Limited range of motion in performing daily activities.
- Gradual damage to the joints cartilage.
- The pain and discomfort is slow and not always present.
- Joint soreness due to inactivity or overuse.
- Morning joint stiffness not longer than 30 minutes.
- Joints of knee, hips, fingers and neck are affected.
- The knuckles, elbow, wrists and shoulders are rarely affected.
In the first visit to the Doctor, you may be asked various questions about your condition, the location of pain, the nature of pain, the intensity and the duration and accompaniment of other physical signs.
Then your medical history and family history will be evaluated. After completing the above process, the Doctor will suggest a blood test for an accurate reading to determine Arthritis.
Blood tests will show the presence of certain proteins, Immunoglobulin, antibodies and can help to check for some autoimmunity disorder, Complete Blood Count [CBC] and presence of uric acid will determine the condition of Arthritis.
Imaging techniques like X-Rays, MRIs etc can detect for abnormalities in joints
A Rheumatologist should be consulted for Arthritis. There is no cure for Arthritis but there is a line of treatment under medical supervision to relieve or minimize the discomfort. Some natural remedies include a balanced diet and topical applications include creams, lotions and oils.
Surgery should be a last option when the damage is considerable and mobility is greatly affected.
Arthritis can impose certain physical limitations in terms of motion and mobility which in turn interferes and affects the daily life of the patient. This has a bad and depressing effect on the patient. A positive approach and a well defined strategy can help relieve most of the discomfort cased in chronic Arthritis.
A housewife affected with Arthritis can reduce the pain by sitting on chairs and stools most of the time and one should always catch hold of ‘bars and handles’ for support. Wearing of sneakers and sports shoes eliminates pain in the legs to an extent. Maintaining a good posture also helps.
A classic example of living with a positive approach with severe and crippling Rheumatoid Arthritis [RA] is of Painter Pierre - Auguste Renoir [1841-1919]. Renoir was a famous French impressionist painter who suffered from RA in 1898, but continued to create great works of Art in spite of suffering from pain and deformed hands.