Body: What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the term which describes a long term condition that is characterised by pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. Arthritis is diagnosed using x-ray and blood tests to measure the severity of the condition. Types of arthritis include: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, juvenile and chronic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout and reactive arthritis, each with their own unique characteristics.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis which is twice as many women than men and common in middle aged or elderly people in their weight-bearing joints in the knees, hips and hands. In a joint affected by the condition, the protective cartilage are worn and bones, thicken to form bony outgrowths called “osteophytes”. This type of arthritis is common in many people by age 70.
Cervical spondylosis is a type of osteoarthritis more common in males over the age of 45 years which affects the bones and cartilage in the neck, causing pain and stiffness and osteophytes develop on the vertebrae of the spine. A combination of inflamed joints and osteophytes can put pressure on the spinal nerves and blood vessels, leading to restricted neck movement, pain in the back of the head, aching and shooting pains affecting the shoulders and hands. Sufferers are also affected by numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in hands and arms.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that may run in families, most common over the age of 40 and affects1 in 100 people and three times as many women than men. In the condition, affected joints are stiff and swollen due to the inflammation of the synovial membrane which covers joints. Wear and tear causes damage and deformity to the ends of the bones and cartilage over time. Rheumatoid arthritis usually occurs symmetrically in the small joints of the hands and feet and may develop in any joint. Tissues in parts of the body such as eyes, lungs and blood vessels, can also be affected by inflammation.
Ankylosing spondylitis is four times more common in males and usually begins in late adolescence, or early adulthood and is rare over the aged of 45. Symptoms of the condition include: joint inflammation in the back of the pelvis and the bones in the spine. As the condition deteriorates, new bone growths between the spinal vertebrae, eventually fuse. The condition is also linked with psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohns Disease.
Gout is a type of arthritis which results from deposits of uric acid (waste products from the breakdown of cells and proteins) which form within joints such as the big toe. It affects men 20 times more men than women between the ages of 30 and 60 years. Predisposing factors include being overweight and the excessive intake of alcohol. Symptoms include sudden pain and inflammation in a single joint. There is also a relationship between gout and kidney stones. Longstanding gout can lead to uric acid crystals forming into lumps called tophi depositing in earlobes and the soft tissues of the hands, feet.
For most types of arthritis, pain is managed using painkillers such as or non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs. Severe flare ups of conditions e.g. osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and gout may require steroid injections directly into the affected joint.
Management of Arthritic Conditions
It is important to maintain an active lifestyle as much as possible as this will enable someone who is suffering from an arthritic condition, to manage their symptoms. Discussing pain management and mobility with your doctor will help in making decisions about suitable activities and exercise.
In addition to using pain killers, it is helpful to use heat and cold to affected areas as it will decrease pain sensitivity. Heat will increase the flow of blood (a heat pad is useful) and the cold assists in reducing the swelling.
Undertaking regular, gentle exercise will help to ease difficulties caused stiff joints. In addition, keeping physically active will strengthen the muscles supporting the joints. Swimming regularly is an excellent way of improving joint flexibility and stamina. As a non-weight-bearing activity, where the water supports the body, it allows the muscles to be exercised without joint strain.
Some arthritis sufferers may require specially adapted equipment to enable them to manage activities of daily living and household tasks. Talking to a doctor or physiotherapist may be able to advise suitable equipment to enable a person to eat, grip or reach objects without having to bend down. Examples of equipment include: wide-stemmed drinking glasses, a plate with a rim, thick-handled cutlery, non-slip place mats; tongs for picking up items, handrails or shower equipment to enable the person to sit while they wash.
(source: © hopecalls.org)
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