Arthritis is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes and races can have arthritis, but it is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.
Symptoms may come and go. They may stay about the same for years, but may progress or get worse over time. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain and make it difficult or impossible to do daily activities such as walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes which may be visible but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.
The most common types of arthritis are:
- Degenerative – When the cartilage wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age and previous injury (an anterior cruciate ligament or ACL tear, for example).
- Inflammatory – the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion and may damage internal organs, eyes and other parts of the body. Researchers believe that a combination of genetics and environmental factors such as smoking can trigger autoimmunity. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is critical because slowing disease activity can help minimize or even prevent permanent joint damage.
- Infectious – A bacterium, virus or fungus enters the joint and triggers inflammation. In many cases, timely treatment with antibiotics may clear the joint infection, but sometimes the arthritis becomes chronic.
- Metabolic – Uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, or a gout attack. Gout can come and go in episodes or, if uric acid levels aren’t reduced, it can become chronic, causing ongoing pain and disability.
Symptoms of Arthritis:
- Decreased range of motion
Treatments for Arthritis:
- Medication Management
- Hot and Cold Treatments
- Physical Therapy
Tips for Managing Arthritis:
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Use assistive devices, if necessary
- Avoid excessive repetitive movements
- Create an interdisciplinary pain team