Arthritis is primarily an inflammation of one or more joints in the body. It is usually identified as an inflammation in the joints of the body. Arthritis per se refers to the most common Osteoarhritis affecting the larger joints, knees most commonly Hips, elbows, , ankles and spine can also be affected. Inflammation in smaller joints is often referred to as ‘rheumatism’ as it is extensively seen in Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune systemic disease rather than an arthritis. Affliction of toes also seen in Gouty arthritis.

Interestingly, arthritis is an umbrella term to describe an astonishing 200 or more disorders that affect the joints and connective tissue. The condition typically manifests as pain in the joints, soreness, difficulty moving, a ‘cracking’ sound when moving the said joint, constant aching, etc.

What causes arthritis

Arthritis commonly starts in the cartilage of the joint. The cartilage offers joint support to absorb shock and the impact of sudden movement. It is a flexible tissue connecting the joints. For reasons unknown, the body’s immune systems can attack the cells in the cartilage and reduce the tissue. As a result, the joint becomes weaker and any movement causes friction and pain.

Science has still not been able to establish why the immune system attacks the cells in the cartilage tissue. However, the process is certainly accelerated by age, wear and tear, injury, lack of nutrition that can lubricate the cartilage, and so on. The most common reason for non-immune system prone arthritis seen in the wear and tear of the cartilage, is excess weight. Those who are overweight or obese are twice as likely as others to develop arthritic joints.

Your genetic makeup plays a role in the development of arthritis. For example, if an older relative or parent has had it, then the chances of you having it are quite high.

Apart from genetics, other factors at play that cause or lead to the progression of arthritis include age related wear and tear, infections leading to joint inflammation, injury that does not heal properly, immune system anomaly, habits like smoking and substance abuse, and abnormal metabolism.

Types of arthritis

Arthritis is commonly identified into these types:

  • Osteoarthritis: this type occurs where the bones are ‘chipped’ away gradually due to wear and tear related to age.
  • Fibromyalgia: it is a type of pain that describes a musculoskeletal ache with lapses in memory, rapid changes in mood, and fatigue
  • Gout: it is characterised by a sudden and sharp pain in the joint, often beginning with the big toe, and is caused due to deposition of urate crystals in joints.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: a type of debilitating arthritis that manifests as aching and swollen joints, fatigue, weight loss, and can be associated with systemic gastrointestinal and eye symptoms. This is an autoimmune systemic disease with arthritis as a manifestation.
  • Lupus arthritis: this is not strictly an arthritic issue. It is a body’s autoimmune response in a disease called systemic lupus erythematosus, thereby giving rise to joint pain and inflammation, among other serious symptoms
  • Psoriatic arthritis: complication associated with joints in an immunity mediated skin disease called psoriasis. Permanent debilitation of the joints may occur.
  • Treating arthritis

    Arthritis is treated using a combination of methods to control pain, eliminate pain, minimise further damage to the joint, and improve daily functioning. This involves medication, changing one’s lifestyle, incorporating gentle exercises and stretching, having a balanced diet, and so on.

    Doctors treating arthritis typically use these strategies for treatment:

  • Oral medicines
  • Medication that is topically applied
  • Fomentations and ice compressions
  • Physiotherapy
  • Attaching splints or movement assistance aids
  • Educating the patient about weight loss and lifestyle changes to support the treatment plan
  • Surgery to replace the joint, if pain management techniques do not work

  • Disclaimer : The details provided herein is meant for informative purposes only. For detailed information related to the disease and its treatment please consult a relevant qualified specialist.

    Prevention is better than cure!

    Arthritis may happen to anyone, and in recent years, it has been found among children, teenagers and 20-somethings, too. Instead of waiting for the disorder to strike and then trying to deal with it, it is better to prevent it as far as possible. Consider the following ways to keep your joints in good fettle:

  • Exercise regularly. Exercising the joints keeps them limber and aids in tissue repair and restoration. If you are not into gym training, then you might consider exercises like swimming, cycling and jogging.
  • Have a diet rich in good fats and oils, such as nuts, seeds, salmon, etc. These promote lubrication and joint health. Also include seasonal fruits and vegetables in daily diet to keep your immunity in good shape.
  • Keep your weight under check. Find out from your doctor about your ideal weight for your age and height, and try to maintain it in that range.
  • Protect your joints as you get older. Wearing knee and elbow cushioning pads when exercising is key.
  • Get your joints checked once a year. If you notice any new pain, bring it to your doctor’s attention at once. Scans and joint MRIs can detect a loss in cartilage or erosion of the joint to a large extent.