Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints (areas where your bones meet and move). It can cause pain and inflammation, making it difficult to move or stay active., which usually worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Generally, the first symptom of arthritis is pain, also called arthralgia. This may feel like a dull ache or a burning sensation. Often the pain starts after you have used the joint a lot, for example if you have been gardening or have just climbed a flight of stairs. Some people feel soreness first thing in the morning.
Osteoarthritis causes the breakdown of cartilage – the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, starting with the lining of the joints. Uric acid crystals that form when there is too much uric acid in the blood can cause gout. Infections or an underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, can cause other types of arthritis.
Treatment varies depending on the type of arthritis. The main goal of arthritis treatment is to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Arthritis is most common in the following areas of the body:
- Lower back.
What are the different types of arthritis?
Arthritis is a broad term that describes more than 100 different joint diseases. The most common types of arthritis include:
- Osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear” arthritis that develops when joint cartilage breaks down due to repeated stress. It is the most common form of arthritis.
- Ankylosing spondylitis or arthritis of the spine (usually the lower back).
- Juvenile arthritis (JA), a disorder in which the immune system attacks the tissue around the joints. JA typically affects children under 16 years of age.
- Gout, a disease that causes hard uric acid crystals to form in your joints.
- Psoriatic arthritis, an inflammation of the joints that develops in people with psoriasis (an autoimmune disorder that causes skin irritation).
- Rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that causes the immune system to attack the synovial membranes in your joints.
What causes arthritis?
Different types of arthritis have different causes. The exact cause is unknown. You may develop arthritis if you:
- Have a family history of arthritis.
- Have a job or play a sport that puts repeated stress on your joints.
- Have certain autoimmune diseases or viral infections.
Certain factors increase the likelihood of developing arthritis, including:
- Age: The risk of arthritis increases with age.
- Lifestyle: Smoking or lack of exercise can increase the risk of arthritis.
- Sex: Most types of arthritis are more common in women.
- Weight: Obesity puts more stress on the joints, which can lead to arthritis.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis, signs and symptoms may include:
- Reduced range of motion
How is arthritis diagnosed?
Diagnosis– During a physical exam, doctors will check your joints for swelling, redness, and warmth. They will also want to see how well you can move your joints.
Laboratory tests- Analyzing different types of body fluids can help determine the type of arthritis you may have. Commonly analysed fluids include blood, urine and joint fluid. To obtain a sample of joint fluid, doctors clean and numb the area before inserting a needle into the joint space to remove some of the fluid.
Display- These types of tests can reveal problems in the joint that may be causing your symptoms. Examples:
Radiographs– Using low levels of radiation to image bone, X-rays can show cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs. X-rays may not detect early arthritic damage but are often used to monitor disease progression.
Computed tomography (CT)– CT scanners take X-rays from many different angles and combine the information to create cross-sectional views of internal structures. CT scan image the bone as well as the surrounding soft tissues.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)- By combining radio waves with a strong magnetic field, MRIs can produce more detailed slices of soft tissues such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
Ultrasound–This technology uses high-frequency sound waves to image soft tissue, cartilage and fluid-containing structures near joints (bursae). Ultrasound is also used to guide the placement of a needle to remove joint fluid or inject drugs into the joint.
How is arthritis treated?
There is no cure for arthritis, but there are treatments that can help you manage the condition. Your treatment plan will depend on the severity of your arthritis, your symptoms, and your overall health.
Conservative (non-surgical) treatment includes:
- Medications: Anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers can help relieve arthritis symptoms. Some drugs, called biologics, target the inflammatory response of your immune system. A healthcare provider may recommend biologic medications for your rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis.
- Physical therapy: Rehabilitation can help improve strength, range of motion, and overall mobility. Therapists can teach you how to modify your daily activities to relieve arthritis pain.
- Therapeutic injections: Cortisone injections can temporarily relieve joint pain and inflammation. Arthritis in certain joints, such as your knee, can improve with a treatment called Visco supplementation. It injects a lubricant that helps the joints move smoothly.
Surgical treatment includes-
Health care providers usually recommend surgery only for certain severe cases of arthritis. These are cases that have not improved with conservative treatment. Surgical options include:
- Joint repair- In some cases, the joint surfaces can be smoothed or realigned to reduce pain and improve function. These types of procedures can often be performed arthroscopically – through small cuts through the joint.
- Joint replacement- This procedure removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial one. The most frequently replaced joints are hips and knees.
- Joint fusion- This procedure is more commonly used on smaller joints, such as those in the wrist, ankle, and fingers. It removes the ends of the two bones at the joint and then locks them together until they heal into one rigid unit.
How can arthritis be prevented?
You can reduce your chances of developing arthritis by:
- Avoiding tobacco products.
- Low-impact, non-weight-bearing exercise.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Reducing the risk of joint injuries.
Please contact Houston Spine & Joint Pain Consultants in Texas if you are experiencing any symptoms stated above.