Arthritis Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment
A sort of joint disorder that leads to inflammation in one or more joints is a phenomenon that is defined as Arthritis. In total there are 100+ different forms of arthritis. If stiffness and pain is felt in the body then it is a good possibility that you may have arthritis.
Out of all the 100+ different forms of arthritis, most of them cause pain and swelling in various joints of the body such as your knee or elbow. A joint in a body is described as a place where 2 bones meet. Research reveals that the major complaint of a person who is suffering from arthritis is extreme joint pain in the joint that is affected by this disorder.
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis defines about 200 various sorts of rheumatic conditions and diseases that affects joints in a human body. Rheumatic conditions and diseases are usually characterized by swelling and pain around one or more joints in the body. An interesting fact is that arthritis is very common but we still don’t understand it completely.
Arthritis itself is not a single disorder; it is a way of referring to various joint pains and diseases. Arthritis can affect people of any age group however it is most commonly found in the older section of the society. Adults ranging in the age of 65+ usually suffer the most from this disorder however it is possible that adults or children below that age may also develop arthritis.
Research and surveys show that there are approximately 52.5 million adults and around 300,000 children suffering from this disorder in the US alone. It is further predicted that by the year 2030 around 67 million adults ranging in the age of 18+ will have doctor diagnosed arthritis. Arthritis is found to occur more in women than men and its prevalence possibility increases as the person gets older.
Arthritis is the major cause of causing various types of disabilities in humans. It is estimated that around 18% of the total disabilities are caused by this one single factor. Moreover, arthritis has also been recognized as one of the major reason for the prevalence of depression in the society.
History Of Arthritis
Arthritis has been affecting mankind since the ancient times! Back then only a bunch of info was known to the mankind about this disorder. The first reference to this disorder was in around 1500 BC when the Ebers Papyrus described a condition that was a suitable fit to the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
As per several studies, evidence has been found that rheumatoid arthritis prevailed in the Egyptian mummies. Further, Charak Samhita which was written in around 300 – 200 BC also described a condition which very well suits to the arthritis disorder. A belonging dated back to 123 AD also described signs and symptoms similar to that of arthritis.
So, it is not yet fully clear since when this disorder was first found in humans but it is estimated that it has been prevailing since the early ancient times. Some of the well known arthritis patients include – Auguste Renoir, James Coburn, Lucille Ball and Camryn Manheim.
Types Of Arthritis
There are around 100 – 200 types of arthritis which are categorized into these 7 major groups:
- Inflammatory Arthritis
- Degenerative Arthritis or Osteoarthritis
- Infectious or Septic Arthritis
- Metabolic or Gout Arthritis
- Soft Tissue Musculoskeletal Pain
- Connective Tissue Disease
- Back Pain
A term used to describe a group of conditions that affects the immune system is known as inflammatory arthritis. Inflammation is a normal stage for healing of the body. It occurs to defend the body from viruses and bacteria or as a response to certain injuries. In inflammatory arthritis, this inflammation occurs without any cause and instead of attacking germs it attacks own body tissues which results in joint damage and pain. The 3 most common types of inflammatory arthritis are:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
These conditions affect your whole body so they are also called as systemic diseases. Inflammatory arthritis can affect several joints and it can damage the joint completely if not treated well in a timely manner. There is no cure available yet for the diseases caused by the inflammatory arthritis and they can happen at any age.
Degenerative Arthritis or Osteoarthritis
Degenerative arthritis is referred to that group of conditions that involves damaging to the cartilage which is covering the end of the bones. This is the most common type of arthritis found all over the globe. It is also known as “Osteoarthritis”. This type of arthritis is basically caused by the inflammation of the cartilage of the joints.
Primarily degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis is related to aging of a person. As a person grows older, the water content present in the cartilage increases and the protein makeup of the cartilage degenerates. The cartilage in the joint is responsible for its smooth functioning by helping the joints glide smoothly. Osteoarthritis makes the joint functioning improper as it causes the cartilage in the joint to become thinner and rougher.
This type of arthritis can occasionally be found in many family members as it shows a tendency to shift from one person to other in the same family as a genetic (hereditary) problem. It can also result from a prior external damage to the joint such as a fracture. Further, secondary osteoarthritis is most usually caused due to obesity.
Infectious or Septic Arthritis
Infectious arthritis is referred to as a condition caused by an infection in the joints. The infection in this case is usually transmitted to the body from a fungal, viral or bacterial infection that spreads to the joint from another infected part of the body. This type of arthritis is also known as “Septic Arthritis”. Usually septic arthritis affects a large joint in the body such as the hip or the knee. This type of arthritis is most commonly caused due to the following organisms or diseases:
- Haemophilus Influenza
- Hepatitis A, B and C
- HTLV – 1
- Parvovirus B19
- Coxsackie Virus
Antibiotics and antimicrobial medications are used in most of the above mentioned cases for clearing out the joint infection. However, in some cases if the joint infection has been prevailing for quite some time or is irreversible then these medications might not be useful for treating this type of arthritis.
Metabolic or Gout Arthritis
A condition caused by the buildup of the uric acid in the blood is referred to as the metabolic arthritis. This type of arthritis is also termed as the “Gout Arthritis”. Uric acid is basically a chemical formed in the body by the breakdown of substances called purines. This particular substance is typically found in human cells and certain foods.
Most of the uric acid thus produced gets dissolved in the blood and then it moved to the kidneys, from where it is shed out of the body via urination. In some people excessive uric acid is found which may buildup in the blood and form needle like crystals in the joint especially in the big toe. This specific condition is known as gout or metabolic arthritis and it results in extreme joint pain.
Soft Tissue Musculoskeletal Pain
Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain is a pain that is felt in tissues other than bones or joints. This pain basically originates from the muscles affects a certain part of the body which may further result in an injury.
Sometimes if this particular sort of pain is widespread and diagnosed with certain other symptoms then it may be diagnosed as “fibromyalgia”. Fibromyalgia usually is diagnosed in the middle aged people and its prevalence is directly related to the age. The cause for this disorder is not yet known but it is characterized by psychological distress, widespread pain, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances and fatigue.
Connective Tissue Disease
A group of disorders that affects the protein-rich tissue inside our body which is responsible for supporting various organs is known as connective tissue disease. Connective tissue is that material inside our body which binds or separates various tissues and organs inside our body. Fats, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and bones are various examples of connective tissues.
Pain in joints is one of the most common symptoms of connective tissue disease. However, the inflammation that characterizes this disease can also occur in various other tissues such as skin, lungs, muscles and kidneys. There are more than 200 disorders that affect the connective tissue and are characterized as a connective tissue disease and each of them possesses different causes and symptoms. Some examples of connective tissue disease are:
- Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
- Epidermolysis Bullosa
- Marfan Syndrome
- Osteogenesis Imperfecta
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
One of the most common types of arthritis suffered all over the globe is back pain. Back pain can be caused from a wide variety of causes. It may arise from nerves, ligaments, discs, joints or bones. It may also arise from problems within the organs inside the body.
It is very hard for a doctor or a medical specialist to determine the exact cause for back pain in the body so it is often described as non-specific pain. However, back pain may arise from a specific cause such as osteoarthritis. If this situation occurs in the spine then it is referred to as spondylosis.
What Causes Arthritis?
Arthritis doesn’t have a single cause. It may arise due to various reasons and the causes vary from case to case depending on the type of arthritis and the given condition of the patient. In most of the cases, arthritis is caused from multiple causes working together rather than a single cause causing arthritis on its own. Some of the most common causes of arthritis are:
- Abnormal Metabolism
- Genetic Inheritance
- Internal or External Injury
- Bacterial, Viral or Fungal Infections
- Immune System Dysfunction
A few patients may suffer arthritis due to their specific genetic makeup. Further, various factors such as smoking, previous injuries, physically demanding jobs or infection may also play a vital role in being a cause to arthritis.
Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis
Just like causes of arthritis, its signs and symptoms also vary from case to case and they highly depend on the condition of the patient as well as they type of arthritis he/she is suffering. Signs and symptoms of arthritis may develop gradually or suddenly but in most of the cases signs and symptoms of arthritis persist over time.
In the case of arthritis, there are 4 major signs which develop in each and every patient and they act as an early warning signal for each and every patient. These four major signs are:
- Pain: Arthritis pain may be constant or occur from time to time in some specific or various parts of the body.
- Difficulty in Moving a Joint: Movement of a joint is like a regular activity for all and causes no pain at all in doing so but if it does then it is a sign that you may be at the risk of arthritis.
- Stiffness: Stiffness is a typical sign of arthritis. It affects different people differently. Some feel stiffness upon waking up in the morning whereas on the other hand some might feel stiffness in the body after exercising.
- Swelling: If a joint feels swollen and red then it is high sign that you might be having arthritis in that joint.
If you suffer any of these signs then it is a very high probability that you are suffering the disorder of arthritis regardless its type. Symptoms of arthritis vary from type to type as each type of arthritis shows different symptoms in patients. Symptoms of the most common type of arthritis are as follows:
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
- Stiffness in joints in the morning persisting for a long period of time.
- Join pain is felt from time to time in the same joint.
- Deforming of joint over time.
- Dry eyes and mouth.
- Chest pain when taking a deep breath.
- Burning and itchy eyes.
- Formation of nodules under the skin.
- Tingling sensation on hands and feet.
- Numbness of hands and feet.
- Difficulty in sleeping.
- Swelling of the affected joint.
- Fever and weight loss.
- Joint pain and stiffness.
- Crackling sound on the movement of joint.
- Stiffness in the morning.
- Extreme pain causing sleep difficulties.
- Tenderness of joint on applying pressure to it.
- Flexibility loss.
- Bone spurs.
Childhood Arthritis Symptoms
- Problems using a limb.
- Swollen joint.
- Sudden high fever with rash.
- Limited movement of a joint.
- Joint stiffness.
- Pale skin.
- Sticky appearance.
- Swollen lymph gland.
- Red eyes.
- Vision changes.
- Sudden weight loss.
Septic Arthritis Symptoms
- Sudden high fever.
- Pseudo paralysis.
- Extreme joint pain.
- Joint swelling, stiffness and redness.
- Cries on the movement of infected joint.
- Weakness in the body.
- Widespread pain.
- Difficulties in sleeping.
- Psychological stress at all times.
- Morning stiffness.
- Extreme pain all over the body.
- Cognitive and memory problems.
- Painful menstrual periods.
- Tingling sensation in hands and feet.
- Numbness in hands and feet.
- Extreme tenderness and pain in a specific joint, usually the big toe.
- Purplish or extreme red skin on the affected joint.
- High swelling over the affected joint.
- Itching and peeling sensations on the affected the joint.
- Limited motion range.
- Lingering discomfort.
Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms
- Stiffness and pain around the affected joint.
- Buttock pain.
- Swelling and pain in heels.
- Pain at the tendon and bone attachment area.
- Swollen fingers and toes.
- Extreme pain in the lower back.
- Hair loss.
- Skin abnormalities.
- Ulcers on toes and fingertips.
- Joint pain.
- Stiffness of skin on hands, face and forearm.
- Extreme pain in fingers and joints.
- Dry cough.
- Breathe shortness.
- Small white lumps beneath the skin.
- Raynaud’s Phenomena.
Diagnosis of Arthritis
Diagnosing arthritis effectively is the very first step for treating it. Diagnosing arthritis is a quite complex process because everyday lots of people suffer joint pain and they rush to their doctors or various other medical facilities to understand what has actually happened to them. However, most of them aren’t suffering from arthritis and they suffer a usual joint pain. It just because most of the people panic so much that they believe something bad has happened to them.
In order to determine if you have arthritis or not there is a very comprehensive evaluation of the symptoms you are suffering presently as well as there is a quite comprehensive evaluation of your medical history. A physical exam is conducted to determine the loss of motion or to check the swelling of the joint. To confirm the diagnosis blood tests and X-Ray tests are used.
The diagnosis doesn’t just end there. Once you have been diagnosed as a patient of arthritis further diagnoses are run in order to determine the specific type of arthritis that you are suffering. X-Ray test and blood test helps a lot in determining the specific type of arthritis being suffered by the patient. In some cases joint ultrasound or MRI scans are also exercised to determine the type of arthritis that is being suffered.
Treatment of Arthritis
Arthritis can be treated in numerous ways. However, it is to be noted that for certain types of arthritis there is no cure available yet. Treatments available to treat arthritis help in alleviating pain and preventing any further damage to the affected joints. This is the basic focus of treatment of arthritis. All of the medications and therapies offered to treat arthritis rely on following this basic motto.
Medications are typically used to treat that type of arthritis that fall under the non-inflammatory category such as osteoarthritis. Along with medications these type of arthritis are also treated with the help of physical activity and self management. Medications used to treat arthritis vary from case to case. There is no universal medication available yet that can treat all types of arthritis. Most commonly the following medications are used to treat arthritis:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
Joint protection is an important aspect of treatment of arthritis. An occupational therapist can teach you much easier ways to do your normal tasks which further enhances your quality of life. An occupational therapist can teach you various things which include:
- Using grab bars while bathing.
- Using modifies canes, doorknobs or walkers.
- Avoiding positions that strains and damages the joint.
- Using supports to protect the joints.
- Using strong joints more while limiting the use of weaker ones.
Arthritis can also be treated with the help of a surgery. In some patients various forms of surgeries become a necessity to reduce the discomfort in the daily life whereas in most of the patients surgery remains an open option for the treatment of arthritis.
If the affected joint becomes completely damage then a surgery is a must to treat the condition especially in the case of a big major joint such as knee or hip. The most common type of surgery used to treat fully damaged joints in certain cases of arthritis is replacement of joints such as knee or hip replacement surgery.
In certain cases spinal surgery is also performed to treat arthritis. It is especially performed in those patients who develop arthritis in the neck or in the lower spine. The disadvantage of a surgery is that it limits the movement of the joint afterwards but it is quite useful in eliminating extreme pain and various other symptoms of arthritis.
Physical Therapies and Activities
Another effective way of treating arthritis is a physical therapy. Physical therapies are often recommended to the patients of arthritis to improve their quality of life as well as to overcome the challenges faced by them due to arthritis. Doctors recommend various forms of physical therapies which most commonly include warm water and occupational therapies.
Apart from physical therapies various physical activities are also recommended to keep the body in a better shape. Due to arthritis certain day to day tasks become pretty difficult to perform and with the help of physical activity these limitations can be easily lifted. Some of the physical activities that are the most beneficial ones for the patients of arthritis include:
- Bike Riding
As per now there is no arthritis diet cure but taking a healthy arthritis friendly diet can help a lot in increasing the life quality of a patient suffering from this painful disorder. A patient should add the following things to his/her diet:
- At least 3-4 ounces of fish twice a week.
- Heart healthy soybeans such as tofu.
- Instead of using normal cooking oil, extra virgin olive oil should be used.
- Tons of fresh cherries.
- Low fat dairy products which include milk and yogurt.
- Green vegetables especially broccoli.
- Green tea instead of normal tea.
- Limes, oranges and grapefruits.
- Whole wheat grain.
- Garlic and onions.
- Nuts and beans.
Apart from that, the following things should be avoided for a healthy arthritis diet:
- Saturated and Trans fats.
- Omega 6 fatty acids.
- Refined carbohydrates.
- Gluten and Casein.
Living with Arthritis
Living with arthritis is not a simple task. Arthritis is a very painful disorder which involves a lot of symptoms alongside which further worsen the condition of a patient a lot. For a patient of arthritis performing simple daily tasks prove to be one of the hardest challenges to accomplish.
Quality of life can be improved by taking certain measures. First and foremost of it is to take proper medications and treatment to improve your condition at an optimum pace. It should be further accompanied by regular physical therapies and activities as suggested above. Self management can also help greatly and it further raises the confidence level too.
It is recommended for the patients of arthritis to stay organized at all the times and keep a proper track of their symptoms, possible side effects of medications and improvements in the body. Regular checkups with the doctor should never be missed. Further, proper rest is also very necessary for a patient suffering from arthritis because human body needs rest to heal itself. A healthy arthritis diet should be followed to further enhance the quality of life. It is important to keep a regular check on your condition and take any step necessary to improve your life quality so that living with arthritis becomes smoother.