What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the general term for the swelling of the joints and connective tissue of the body, causing tenderness and pain. Over a hundred different versions of arthritis have been identified, each with its causes and treatments. The symptoms of arthritis may occur suddenly or over an extended period and worsen as we age. While it is more commonly found in individuals over the age of 65, it may also develop in younger demographics.
Arthritis Symptoms & Causes
Arthritis’ symptoms can range from mild to severe, with most patients reporting pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the joints, limiting their range of motion. In some cases, and depending on the type of arthritis, patients also report experiencing:
- Loss of appetite
- Eye swelling
Given the vast number of arthritis types, the root cause of it is unknown. A diagnosis is necessary to identify which type of arthritis may be present. A physician will perform various exams that involve checking for redness, swelling, and fluid in the joints. While general causes cannot be pinpointed, these factors have been known to aggravate the condition:
- Excess weight
- Physical work
Types of Arthritis
More than a hundred forms of arthritis have been discovered, with the two most common being rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. While they present similar symptoms, these two forms of arthritis are very different. The most notable difference is that osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition, meaning it progresses over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the joints. While it mostly targets the joints in the hands, feet, elbows, and shoulders, it can also affect other connective tissue and organs such as the eyes, skin, and lungs. These symptoms occur when the immune system attacks the lining of membranes that surround the joints. A comprehensive evaluation of organs and tissues is recommended for potential sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms include:
- Joint pain & swelling
- Reduced mobility
- Weight loss
Osteoarthritis is the weakening of the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones. Having worn cartilage means that bones rub together, causing pain and stiffness in the joints. Osteoarthritis is more prominent in individuals over the age of 65, but it can occur in people of all ages. While it worsens over time, it can also be caused by previous injuries such as a torn cartilage or ligament. Other causes and risk factors include:
- Excess weight
- Poor posture
- Family history
A pain management specialist can help recommend the best treatment plan for your specific condition. Treatment can vary and may include medications, physical therapy, or surgery, depending on the symptoms’ severity. Some of the medications include:
- Menthol ointments
- Nonsteroidal pain killers
People who have arthritis may also benefit from different lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, weight loss, and a healthy diet. Our specialists can help create the best plan to manage your specific condition.