Arthritis refers to joint pain or joint diseases. It is the leading cause of disability in the US. It occurs during the middle age, but nowadays it is not uncommon among children as well. The reasons are varied – injuries from a tear of a ligament, gout, problem with the immune system etc. There are some common arthritis symptoms like swelling, stiffness, chronic or acute pain and hindrance in movement. It is not inevitable that the symptoms would stay forever, but they may come and go, sometimes it might stay for years or get worse with time. Some types of arthritis affect not only the joints, but also the heart, eyes, kidney, lungs and skin.
There are mainly four types of arthritis: Degenerative arthritis, inflammatory arthritis, metabolic arthritis and infectious arthritis.
Degenerative arthritis: A common form of arthritis, it is also known as osteoarthritis. When an injury or a regular wearing out of the cartilage occurs, the bones rub against each other causing swelling and chronic pain. The joint tends to become loose as it weakens. An anterior cruciate ligament or a tear is the leading cause of this type of arthritis. Relief can be obtained with the help of hot and cold therapy, maintaining healthy activities and consuming over-the-counter or anti-inflammatory drugs.
Inflammatory arthritis: The function of an immune system is to protect the body from foreign bodies like bacteria and viruses. But sometimes, the immune system does not work properly. Instead, it attacks the joints and causes joint erosion, uncontrolled inflammation and damages the eyes and other organs as well. Two examples of inflammatory arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Research says that environmental factors and heredity trigger such an autoimmune disease. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMAD) can be of help to decrease pain and improve the functioning of joints.
Metabolic arthritis: When uric acid increases, it forms needle-like crystals in the joints and results in gout or chronic pain. Uric acid is formed from purines, which can be found in the human cell and also in some food. The primary objective should be to reduce the level of uric acid. Otherwise, it might result in chronic pain, joint damage and disability.
Infectious arthritis: In this type of arthritis, bacteria or virus enters the joint and causes inflammation. Food poisoning and contamination (Salmonella and Shigella), hepatitis C and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like Chlamydia and gonorrhoea cause infections in the joints. Antibiotics would help in clearing the infection of the joint, but sometimes it can be chronic.
Diagnosis and treatment
In the primary stage, a physician would take note of the family history and perform certain tests and scans to help in the identification of the type of arthritis. A rheumatologist should be engaged for arthritis treatment and other complications. Sometimes a surgery or a knee replacement can be the last resort, if medication and other physical therapies fail to work. One may opt for alternative therapies when the conventional medicine does not seem to help much.