Beginners Guide To Arthritis

In Aged Care

Arthritis is a common illness that causes an inflammation of the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments or bones causing pain swelling and restricted movement.

Arthritis can affect one joint or several. There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis, each has different causes and requires a different course of treatment. Millions of people suffer from arthritis.

Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases appear to be more prevalent on women than men and in adults who are overweight. They are also associated with old age as osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in people over the age of 65. However, arthritis can affect people of all ages.

The symptoms of arthritis usually develop over time, but they may also appear suddenly. Arthritis is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 65, but it can also develop in children, teens, and younger adults. Arthritis is more common in women than men and in those who are overweight.

  1. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis: it causes the protective cartilage inside the joint to break down making movement more difficult and painful. In time, bones of the joint may rub directly against one another, causing severe pain. Pain intensity varies from person to person and can range from mild to severe.
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Causes the joints and other organs to be attacked by the body’s own immune system. In people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, it becomes overactive and attacks healthy tissue. Over time, the persistent inflammation breaks down the joint and damages it permanently.
  3. Fibromyalgia: Presents as central pain syndrome characterized by widespread pain. It may come and go or be constant. The brain and spinal cord process pain signals differently. A touch or movement that doesn’t cause pain for others may feel painful (this is called allodynia). Something that is mildly painful to someone without fibromyalgia may hurt even more (this is called hyperalgesia). Symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep problems, inability to concentrate and mood troubles

Other forms of arthritis include:

  • Gout: A form of inflammatory arthritis, but it does not cause body-wide inflammation. Your body produces too much uric acid or if you are unable to remove the excess fast enough, it can build up in the blood forming crystals in your joints. This results in extremely painful joint inflammation. Gout usually strikes in the big toe, but can also affect other joints.
  • Lupus: A chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease affecting many parts of the body, including the joints, kidneys, skin, blood, brain and other organs. It can cause joint pain, fatigue, hair loss, and sensitivity to light, fever, rash and kidney problems.
  • Back Pain: Ankylosing spondylitis, causes the bones of the spine to grow together.
  • Schleroderma: An autoimmune disease causing the thickening and hardening of the skin and other connective tissue
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis: Causes inflammation and stiffness of the joints. Also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, covers the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children under the age of 16. Children often grow out of juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Causes of Arthritis

This varies according to the type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints or from overuse. Other forms of arthritis can be triggered by the body’s autoimmune system attacking its own tissue. Arthritis can be genetic. People with the HLA-B27 genetic marker have a higher risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis. For many other forms of arthritis the cause remains unknown.

Risk Factors Associated With Arthritis

Some of the primary risk factors associated with arthritis, which cannot be changed or avoided, include:

  • Age: The older you are the more likely you are to develop arthritis
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop arthritis than men
  • Heredity: Some forms of arthritis are linked to genetic triggers

Some risk factors associated with arthritis, which can be changed or modified include:

  • Weight: Being overweight impacts knee joints making them more prone to osteoarthritis
  • Injury: A damaged joint is more prone to develop arthritis
  • Infection: Reactive arthritis can affect joints after infection
  • Occupation: Jobs the require continual bending or squatting can lead to knee arthritis

Common Arthritis Symptoms

Each individual may display different symptoms however the most common symptoms include:

  • Recurring joint pain
  • Warmth or redness in one or more joints
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Trouble moving normally

Arthritis symptoms can mimic other health related issues. If in doubt schedule a consultation with your local health care provider.

Diagnosing Arthritis

After reviewing your physical, medical and family history, there is a range of tests that may prove helpful in diagnosing arthritis:

  • Antinuclear antibody test checks antibody levels in the blood
  • Blood count to check for abnormalities in white and red blood cells and platelet
  • Creatinine checks kidney function
  • Sedimentation detects infection
  • Hematocrit measures the number of red blood cells
  • Rheumatoid factor test looks for rheumatoid factor in blood
  • White blood cell level check
  • Uric acid test to look for gout

Potential Complications From Arthritis

As arthritis causes the joints to degenerate over time, arthritis can cause painful movement, which can become disabling leaving sufferers less able to live a normal daily life or care for themselves.

Living With Arthritis

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are ways to reduce inflammation and manage pain. A change in lifestyle can improve sufferers’ quality of life and complement medication and therapy:

  • Weight loss; Reduces stress on knee and hip joints
  • Exercise: Swimming, walking, low-impact aerobics, yoga and stretching can help reduce joint pain and stiffness
  • Rest and Activity: Alternating between rest and activity helps reduce stress on joints, thus mitigating its symptoms
  • Canes, walkers can help minimize joint stress
  • Reachers and grabbers can limit stress on joints
  • Managing medication: Long term use of anti-inflammatory medication can lead to stomach bleeding

Consult Your Physician

If your symptoms get worse or new ones present, consult you local physician.