Identifying symptoms of Arthritis
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are four major signs or symptoms that suggest a possible arthritis diagnosis:
- Pain (constant or it can come and go)
- Swelling (doesn’t occur with all types)
- Stiffness in the joints (beyond normal morning stiffness)
- Difficulty moving the joint
If you feel like you might have arthritis, keep a journal of your symptoms and then schedule an evaluation. Because it is a complex condition with many different types, it can sometimes take time to determine the right diagnosis. Besides your primary care doctor, you may also need to see a rheumatologist, a pain specialist, and an orthopedic doctor.
Most of us know someone with arthritis or live with it ourselves. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that its prevalence is only going to grow. During the last 5 years, approximately 22.7 percent (54.4 million) of adults were diagnosed with arthritis, with a higher prevalence in women than men, according to the National Health Interview Survey data.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, and they all have a unique set of challenges. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of arthritis, the causes and symptoms, and the forms of treatment available.
Types of arthritis
The two most common types of are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. With osteoarthritis, a degenerative form of arthritis, the cartilage at the end of your bones break down. While it’s more common as we get older, it can also be brought on by an injury or joint infection.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule called the synovial membrane. Left unchecked, it can destroy all the cartilage and bone within the joint.
Other common types include psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and septic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis is another autoimmune disease that attacks tissue in the body causing swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints and surrounding tissue. People living with psoriatic arthritis also experience extreme fatigue.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the spine. When left untreated it can lead to some of the vertebrae fusing together.
Juvenile arthritis affects almost 300,000 kids in the U.S. and the most common form is juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Sometimes an infection can trigger arthritis in your body as well. Reactive arthritis is brought on by certain bacterial infections like chlamydia and salmonella. Septic arthritis occurs when an infection from another part of the body travels through the bloodstream infecting a joint or joints. Sometimes an injury can also be the precipitating factor. Infants and older adults are at the highest risk for septic arthritis.
Each joint of the body is formed by a series of muscles, tendons, and ligaments where bones come together and provide movement and mechanical support. As we age, our cartilage wears out and loses the ability to hold as much water, which works as a shock absorber. As a result, the cartilage progressively becomes damaged. While joint pain is most commonly associated with arthritis (inflammation of one or more joints), repetitive physical activity and injury can also cause damage or pain.
Pain in joints such as the ankle, elbow, hand & wrist, hip, knee, or shoulder can prevent the body from performing everyday activities. When the surfaces of your joints wear out from arthritis, injury, or general wear and tear, the grinding of bone on bone causes pain and swelling. When left untreated, joint pain can become debilitating and cause other areas of your body to overcompensate.
How osteoarthritis, also referred to de generative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, is treated depends on which joint is affected, but a combination of diet, exercise, and medications are usually elements used to manage the condition.
Because currently, there is no cure for arthritis, treatment is primarily focussed on relieving symptoms and improving mobility.
Your doctor may prescribe painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like aspirin or ibuprofen), and creams or ointments with menthol or capsaicin to disrupt pain signals. Corticosteroids or steroid hormones can also help to reduce inflammation in the body. For rheumatoid arthritis, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs and biologic response modifiers are typically prescribed.
Losing weight can reduce the occurrence of osteoarthritis in the knee by 50 percent, according to the renowned Knee Osteoarthritis study. Control your weight by following a healthy, balanced diet filled with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. At least 30 minutes of daily exercise can keep your joints flexible and improve muscle tone. (Choose water exercises if your joints are very painful.)
As is the case with any patient, physical activity prevents arthritis patients from engaging in a sedentary lifestyle, which could exacerbate stiffness as well as lead to weight gain. Weight management is important for arthritis, too, as being overweight puts additional pressure on the joints.
Medications range from over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and topical creams to prescription inflammation reducers. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and other sources, also help fight inflammation leading to arthritis. Learn relaxation techniques to reduce stress, such as meditation, which releases chemicals in the body that reduce inflammation.
While the pain and stiffness that come with arthritis could make stretching and physical activity sound like a bad idea, patients and experts agree that the opposite is in fact true. The Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network (RASN) recommends light activities such as walking and yoga in order to fix range of motion issues and increase flexibility. Other low-impact activities include swimming and the use of the treadmill or elliptical. patients can also practice strength training to help increase muscle strength.s
Follow These Diet Dos and Don’ts
Although no magic food will cure arthritis, eating certain foods while eliminating or minimizing others may help ease its symptoms. Experts recommend sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet and avoiding foods that cause inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s response to foreign objects that may cause it harm. On the outside, inflammation often manifests through redness and swelling, but inflammation can happen inside the body, too. Diet may contribute to inflammation.
Some foods have anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful to reduce inflammation. Some of these foods include:
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Fruits including strawberries and blueberries
- Foods with healthy fats, such as salmon
- Nuts like walnuts
- Olive oil
On the other hand, certain foods may trigger an inflammatory response in the body. Therefore, we need to use discretion and common sense. Generally speaking, junk food should be avoided thereby preventing or limiting inflammation. Here are some foods that should be avoided to reduce inflammation:
- Soda, fruit juices with added sugar, and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- Processed meats
- Fast food/fried foods
- Sugary breakfast cereals
- Red meat
Get Enough Shut-eye
Sleep is crucial for a variety of health reasons—two of which include diet and exercise. Catching up on sleep every night increases the chances of sticking to a healthy diet and exercise plan.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Research shows that all mammals need sleep and that sleep regulates mood and is related to learning and memory functions. Not only will getting your sleep help you perform on a test, learn a new skill or help you stay on task, but it may also be a critical factor in your health, weight and energy level.”
Sleep may also affect diet. Maintaining a proper sleep schedule will lead to less daytime sleepiness—and lessen the chance of reaching for an unhealthy, sugar-bomb option for that afternoon pick-me-up.
Seek help from family, friends, and professionals to manage daily tasks and your outlook on life. To make it easier to get around, meet with an occupational therapist to discuss helpful tools, such as insoles, a cane, or handrails. If you think you might have arthritis, schedule an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation.
Dr. SHUAIB KAUSAR is a qualified Orthopaedic doctor with vast experience in the field of Orthopaedics. He has extensive knowledge and expertise in all areas of Orthopaedics including Trauma, Arthroplasty, Arthritis, Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy & Spine care. He is a highly skilled surgeon renowned not just for his expertise but also because of his caring attitude and precise treatment.