Arthritis (arth (joint) and itis (inflammation)

Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease.  It occurs most often in the knees, hips and hands.  However, other joints may develop arthritis especially the shoulder.  Arthritis is characterized by the breakdown of the cushioning between the joints (cartilage).  Breakdown of the cartilage causes the bones to literally rub together.  The constant rubbing results in inflammation that causes stiffness, pain and loss of mobility in the affected joint.

 

Types of Arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis (OA)
    • Primary focus of bowlegs and arthritis website
    • Most common form of arthritis
    • Affects 27 million people
    • Common in all races and back grounds
      • More common in men under age 55
      • After age 55 women most likely affected
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (pronounced rue-ma-TOYD arth-write-tis)
    • Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease
    • Autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own healthy tissue
    • Inflammation of the synovium (lining) of the joints may lead to long-term joint damage resulting in severe or chronic pain, loss of joint function and disability.
    • Affects an estimated 1.3 million people in U.S.
    • More common in women
  • Juvenile arthritis (JA)
    • Any form of arthritis in those younger than 18 years of age includes OA & RA
    • Affects an estimated 294,000 children
    • Typically affects joints but may involve the skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract.

 

Osteoarthritis (OA)

OA is the most common form of arthritis.  The breakdown of the cartilage makes moving the joint difficult.  OA may cause damage to surrounding ligaments, menisci and muscles.

Types of OA

  • Primary OA is typically associated with the “wear and tear” that occurs over time and is associated with aging.  Contrary to popular thought arthritis in NOT part of the normal aging process.  It is a disease and should be treated as such.
  • Secondary OA occurs earlier in life and is the result of a specific cause such as an injury or obesity.

OA is characterized by pain or stiffness first thing in the morning, during or after use or after periods of inactivity.  OA may affect one’s ability to complete daily activities such as working, playing sports or getting around easily.  There is no cure for OA.  However in most instances the pain can be managed with:

  • Topical pain relievers (sport rub)
  • Analgesics that reduce pain and inflammation (over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.  or prescription Percocet, Norco, etc.)
  • Corticosteroids (oral and injectable) reduce pain, inflammation and swelling but are not recommended for frequent or long-term use.
  • Hyaluronic acid injections are used when the patients pain did not respond well to other conservative treatments (examples Hylagan, Orthovisc etc.).  It acts to lubricate and cushion joints.
  • Alternative therapies such as mediation, deep breathing, yoga, nutritional supplements, etc.
  • Physical activity strengthens muscles and bones, increases flexibility and improves stamina
  • Weight lose decreases the stress and impact on diseases joints.

Surgery may become necessary when joints are severely damaged.  Surgery may be necessary to repair torn cartilage or damage to the surrounding ligaments, menisci, or muscle.  Joint replacement (hips and knees) may be an option for severely damaged joints as well.  Technically, there is no age limit for a joint replacement except for those who need joint replacement at a young age.  Joint replacements are typically done between the ages of 55 to 80 but can be performed on older patients.

Causes

The true cause of OA is not completely known.  However, multiple factors contribute to it.  Those factors are:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Injury or Overuse
  • Heredity or genetics
  • Muscle weakness

For additional information on arthritis please visit the Arthritis Foundation at http://www.arthritis.org/index.php

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