Arthritis is a disease that is associated with pain, sometimes unbearable, and inflammation in the joints.
Arthritic conditions are typically characterized by pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in and around one or more joints.
The disease is more common among seniors aged 65 years or older, but younger people, even children can be affected.
Early and accurate diagnosis by a rheumatologist, a medical arthritis expert, can help to prevent irreversible damage and disability.
There are over 100 types of arthritis identified. The types of arthritis range from those related to wear and tear of cartilage, like osteoarthritis, to those associated with inflammation resulting from an overactive immune system, like rheumatoid arthritis. Together, the many types of arthritis make up the most common chronic, and one of the more painful illnesses in the United States.
The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. Causes include injury which can lead to osteoarthritis, metabolic abnormalities like gout and pseudogout, hereditary factors, the direct and indirect effect of infections, bacterial and viral, and a misdirected immune system with autoimmunity found in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus).
The major risk factors for most forms of arthritis are genes that are inherited from ancestors. Trauma-related arthritis is related to the risk of injury from specific activities.
Joint pain can be caused by injury affecting any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons surrounding the joint. Injury can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, and bones within the joint. Pain is also a feature of joint inflammation (arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) and infection, and extremely rarely it can be a cause of cancer of the joint.
Symptoms and signs associated with joint pain can include Joint redness, joint swelling, joint tenderness, joint warmth, limping, locking of the joint, loss of range of motion of the joint, stiffness, and weakness.
Arthritis suffers are usually anxious to find the most effective treatment to alleviate the pain caused by the disease. The most effective treatment method is very dependent on the precise type of arthritis present. An accurate diagnosis increases the chances for successful treatment. This is the main reason why it is advisable when symptoms of the disease arise, the patient seek medical advice from a rheumatologist.
Treatments available include physical therapy, home remedies, splinting, cold-pack application, paraffin wax dips, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medications (ranging from acetaminophen [Tylenol] and ibuprofen [Motrin, Advil] to narcotics), immune-altering medications, biologic medications, and surgical operations. Pain from osteoarthritis of the knee can be relieved by hyaluronic acid injections. Rheumatoid arthritis can require medications that suppress the immune system. Low back arthritis that is irritating nerves of the spine can require surgical repair.