WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis is not a single disease but an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. More than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions exist. People of all ages and races are afflicted with arthritis as more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some form. It is more common among women than men and occurs more frequently as people age. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
COMMON TYPES OF ARTHRITIS
The most common types are osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), fibromyalgia, lupus, reactive arthritis and gout. All cause pain in different ways.
Over time, the protective cartilage inside joints breaks down to cause osteoarthritis. This makes movement more difficult and painful. Eventually, the bones of the joint may rub directly against one another, causing severe pain, which can also come from other parts of your joint, such as the synovium and ligaments. OA pain intensity varies from person to person and can range from mild to severe.
In this form, the body’s own immune system attacks the joints and other organs by becoming overactive and affecting healthy tissue. RA primarily affects the lining of the joints known as the synovium. Over time, the persistent inflammation breaks down the joint and damages it permanently. Bones and ligaments, in addition to the synovium, can also be the source of pain in RA.
Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis but does not cause body-wide inflammation. Uric acid crystals that build up when your body produces too much uric acid, or can’t get rid of the excess fast enough, is what causes pain. This occurs when crystals form in your joints, resulting in extremely painful joint inflammation. Gout usually strikes in the large joint of the big toe, but can also affect other joints. With a flare-up, you can go to bed feeling fine and wake up with excruciating pain that makes it difficult to walk.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which can affect various parts of the body including joints, kidney, skin, blood, etc. Lupus arthritis is characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling and redness of joints. It can affect any joint. Untreated or long-standing lupus can damage joints even when it is not flaring up.
This is another autoimmune inflammatory disease that attacks the body to cause inflammation and pain. PsA provides a triple dose of problems as it affects the joints, causing arthritis; the connective tissue where tendons or ligaments attach to bones, causing enthesitis; and the skin, causing psoriasis.
Fibromyalgia is a central pain syndrome where the brain and spinal cord process pain signals differently. It is characterized by widespread pain that may come and go or be constant. In addition to pain, fibromyalgia patients may also have other symptoms such as fatigue, sleep problems, inability to concentrate and mood problems. Patients may also experience pain from a source, such as a slight touch, that doesn’t cause pain in other people.
WHAT CAUSES ARTHRITIS?
Most types of arthritis are caused by several factors acting together. You may be may be more likely to develop certain disorders as a result of your genetic makeup. A variety of external factors may increase the risk further if you’re susceptible to a condition. These include environmental factors such as:
- Previous injury
- Physically demanding occupations
Genetics and Family Risks
Many forms of arthritis run in families, with some conditions having a stronger tendency to be passed on through genetics. The way your body is made can make you more susceptible to certain conditions.
Lifestyle and Triggers
Arthritis can start suddenly without any obvious cause at any age. Something your lifestyle or medical history, even a combination of the two, could be responsible. Osteoarthritis can be triggered by an injury or by a job with heavily repetitive activity.
One theory about the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is that it may be triggered by infections, although there is no direct evidence for this. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common and more severe in people who smoke.
SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT
Symptoms for each form of arthritis is slightly different, but generally, patients experience pain, swelling, reduced range of motion and stiffness in joints that include the hips, knees, ankles, back, fingers, hands, shoulders, neck or wrist. Pain can be intermittent or sharp and can occur while sitting for some forms of the disease. Difficulty walking and muscle weakness is also common. Some patients experience fatigue or malaise. According to the article Can apple cider vinegar help with arthritis? by MEDICAL NEWS TODAY, "many people believe that apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory properties, and some sources say that it can relieve the symptoms of arthritis".
MANAGING ARTHRITIS PAIN
Approximately 50 million Americans have some type of arthritis or related disease. For some people, pain comes and goes, but for all too many people, pain is chronic. Pain is considered chronic when it lasts three to six months. Many patients have constant pain as well as frequent fatigue from dealing with pain.
Developing an effective treatment plan is the key to managing arthritis pain, whether you are prone to occasional flareups, have constant pain or experience symptoms that are somewhere in between.
Dr. Kaur will work with you to discuss a treatment plan that suits your needs as the type, severity and impact of arthritis varies from patient to patient. Your individualized plan may consist of prescription or over-the-counter pain medications, supplements, exercise and other techniques for pain management, including injections in the affected joints. You may be referred to a specialist like a rheumatologist to review new medications called biosimilars, which can treat these autoimmune disorders. For severe cases, joint replacement may be recommended.
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