Arthritis

What is it?

Arthritis is a term that encompasses more than 100 disorders which involve the inflammation of one or multiple joints and their connective tissues. Arthritis is a common ailment and it is estimated that 52.2 million US residents have been diagnosed with arthritis. Two of the most frequent types of arthritis in the US are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which is caused by the gradual wearing down on cartilage over time. Osteoarthritis is often associated with old age as it is usually individuals over 50 who suffer from it. However, infections and accidents can also bring on osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to trouble a slightly younger demographic as sufferers of this kind of arthritis tend to fall into the 40 - 50 age bracket. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the immune system targeting affected joints. This in turn causes swelling and in extreme cases can even change the shape of a joint. This type of arthritis is significantly more prevalent in women that what it is in men.

As well as causing pain, arthritis can reduce the mobility of the sufferer, making it harder for them to remain physically active. This can cause further complications such as obesity, depression and high cholesterol.

Symptoms

There are a range of symptoms that are associated with arthritis and the symptoms can vary in severity from patient to patient.

  • The most common symptom of arthritis is pain and stiffness in the joint. This discomfort may also be accompanied by swelling.
  • In more severe cases, sufferers of arthritis may be unable to walk or use their hands.
  • Aches and pain in the muscles.
  • Tiredness.
  • Weight loss.
  • Disturbed sleep.

Treatment

Unfortunately, as of yet, there is no cure for arthritis. However, there are a number of treatments available which can both relieve the symptoms and slow down the development of the condition.

In most cases, those diagnosed with osteoarthritis will be prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers to combat the pain and discomfort that accompanies arthritis. In addition, sufferers may benefit from physiotherapy and regular exercise. However, in severe cases it may be necessary for a surgeon to perform an operation on the affected joint. Common surgical procedures for osteoarthritis include the replacement of the joint (called anthroplasty) and osteotomy which is an operation which involves the joint being cut and realigned.

With rheumatoid arthritis, the aim of treatment is to slow down the damage being done to the affected joints. So, in addition to painkillers, sufferers will also be prescribed anti-rheumatic drugs to help combat the condition. Additionally, individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis often benefit from regular arthritis and physiotherapy.