Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Home Remedies
- What is Arthritis?
- What Causes Arthritis?
- Arthritis Symptoms:
- Risk Factors for Arthritis:
- Diagnosis of Arthritis:
- Complications of Arthritis:
- Arthritis Treatment:
- Home Remedies and Prevention:
What is Arthritis?
In Arthritis, one or more joints are inflamed. Arthritis is categorized into different types based on the underlying cause. The common forms of arthritis are – osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
What Causes Arthritis?
Normal wear and tear is the common cause of OA. Any form of infection or injury may exacerbate the natural breakdown of the cartilage tissue. The risk of developing OA increases, if there is a family history of OA.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. It usually occurs when the immune system of the body attacks its own tissues, which affect the synovium (a soft tissue in the joints that produces the fluid to nourish and lubricate the cartilage of the joints). In rheumatoid arthritis, the synovium is destroyed that leads to the destruction of the joint cartilage along with the bone.
The exact cause of the immune response is unknown. However, scientists discovered that genetic markers influence the risk of developing RA to five times.
The symptoms of arthritis may develop suddenly or over a period of time. It is usually seen in adults over the age of 65 years. However, it can also develop in children, teens and younger adults. Women are more prone to arthritis than men and also people who are overweight are at increased risk. The symptoms of arthritis include:
- Joint pain
- Stiffness in the joints
- Swelling of the joints
- Decreased range of motion
- Redness of the skin around the joint
- Symptoms may be worse in the morning after getting up from bed
In RA, along with the above-mentioned symptoms, the patient may also experience-
- Loss of appetite
- Anemia (decreased red blood cell count)
- Mild fever
- Joint deformity
Risk Factors for Arthritis:
The risk factors for arthritis include:
- Genetic factors: Different types of arthritis like OA, RA, gout, etc. have an inherited component which increases the risk of arthritis.
- Obesity and overweight: Increased weight causes increased wear and tear on the joints that may lead to arthritis.
- Injury: An injury can weaken the joint that may lead to arthritis in future.
- Occupation: Repetitive movements in one’s occupation can lead to arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems.
- Age: With ageing, the risk of developing arthritis increases.
- Gender: Women are more prone to develop OA and RA, whereas gout, ankylosing spondylitis are commonly seen in men.
- Infections: Few infections may involve the joints and cause arthritis.
Diagnosis of Arthritis:
Arthritis can be diagnosed through the following ways:
The doctor may check for any warmth, redness, swelling in and around the joint. He/she may also look for the movement restriction due to pain and swelling. The primary care physician may refer the patient to a specialist (rheumatologist), if required.
The doctor may suggest for analysis of the inflammation levels in the blood and the joint fluid (synovial fluid) to determine the type of arthritis. The tests may check for:
- Rheumatoid factor (RF)
- Antinuclear antibody (ANA)
- Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti- CCP)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
These investigations include- X-ray, MRI, CT-scans to determine the extent of damage to the bones and cartilage.
Complications of Arthritis:
Complications of arthritis are based on the type of arthritis. For example, rheumatoid arthritis may lead to complications like –
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition where nerves are compressed and affects the movement and sensation of the hands)
- Inflammation may spread to other organs like
i) Lungs causing pulmonary fibrosis, chest pain, and difficulty in breathing.
ii) Heart causing chest pain and pericarditis
iii) Eyes causing scleritis (redness and pain in the eyes), Sjogren’s syndrome (dry eyes).
- Cervical myelopathy- This condition may occur due to dislocation of the joints that may put pressure on the spinal cord affecting the mobility of the patient.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases causing stroke, heart attack etc.
- Joint damage- Damage to the bones, tendons, cartilages may lead to joint deformities.
The main aim of the treatment of arthritis is to reduce the pain and prevent further damage to the joints. The doctor may suggest the following treatment plan to achieve the desired results:
The medications used for the treatment of arthritis include:
- Analgesics like hydrocodone or acetaminophen for the relief of pain
- NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, salicylates for the management of pain and inflammation
- Menthol or capsaicin creams for pain relief
- Immunosuppressant like prednisone or cortisone to reduce inflammation
In severe cases, if the joint was damaged, the doctor may suggest a joint replacement surgery, usually for hip and knee joints (weight-bearing joints). The doctor may also recommend joint fusion surgery in severe cases of the finger and wrist joints. In joint fusion surgery, the ends of the bones are locked so that they can fuse while healing.
The physiotherapy for arthritis helps to relieve pain, strengthen the muscles around the affected joints, and improve the range of motion or movement in the affected joint.
Home Remedies and Prevention:
In addition to the medical treatment, arthritis demands mild to moderate lifestyle changes to help the patient to prevent the complications and improve the disease symptoms. The measures that will help the patient to cope up with arthritis include:
- Maintaining agood weight reduces the risk of OA and also reduces the symptoms of OA in patients who already have it.
- A diet rich in antioxidants foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs help to reduce inflammation. Other foods to reduce inflammation are fish and nuts, which are also helpful in relieving the symptoms of arthritis.
- Minimize the intake of fried, processed foods and high intake of meat. A doctor should be consulted if the patient wants to switch to a gluten-free diet to improve the symptoms of arthritis.
- Regular exercises provide joint flexibility and improve muscle strength. Swimming is the good form of exercise for arthritic patients as it doesnot exert pressure on the joints like running or walking.
- Arthritic patients should be able to stay active without overexerting themselves, and an adequate amount of rest is also required.