Arthritis is a term which is used to describe a disorder that affects joints. It occurs due to inflammation in the joints. It occurs due to changes in cartilage, which is a kind of connective tissue present in joints. Cartilage is flexible and firm that facilitates movements of joints. It protects the joints by absorbing the pressure and shock created when we move and put stress on them. When there is reduction in normal amounts of cartilage, arthritis may occur.
Types of arthritis
It is the most common form of arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease that affects entire joint involving the cartilage, joint lining and ligaments and underlying bone. The pain and joint stiffness is caused by breakdown of these tissues. It can affect both the larger and the smaller joints of the body, most commonly affected are the joints which are used heavily such as hands, wrists, feet, back, hip, and knee. The disease is majorly caused because of daily wear and tear of the joint; however, it can also be a result of injury.
Osteoarthritis begins in the cartilage and eventually causes the two opposing bones to rub into each other. In severe osteoarthritis, complete loss of cartilage causes friction between bones, causing pain at rest or pain with limited motion. The condition starts with minor pain during physical activity, but soon the pain can be continuous and even after long periods of inactivity. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is most commonly a disease of the elderly. It is most commonly seen in people who had prior joint trauma, are obese, and a lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Stiffness – it is most common in the morning.
Crackling noise – it occurs when the affected joint is moved or touched, which may be due to muscle spasms and contractions in the tendons.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder in which body's own immune system starts to attack body tissues. This results in inflammation of the joints. The attack is not only directed at the joint but to other parts of the body. Normally, cartilage is responsible for the movements of bones against each other without friction. Synovial fluid surrounds joints which is responsible for the lubrication and nourishment of the joints. But RA causes inflammation of the synovium. Some damage is done to the joints every time they're inflamed, and the joint can be worn away after repeated flare-ups.
RA often affects joints in the fingers, wrists, knees and elbows, is symmetrical (appears on both sides of the body), and can lead to severe deformity. People aged 20 and above are mostly affected. It can be present in children with a skin rash, fever, pain, disability, and limitations in daily activities. With earlier diagnosis and proper treatment, many individuals can lead a better quality of life.
Stiffness - The joint is harder to use and doesn't move as it should. It’s especially common in the morning.
Swelling - Fluid enters the joint and makes it puffy.
Pain - Inflammation inside a joint makes it sensitive and tender. Over time, it causes damage and pain.
Redness and warmth - The joints may be warmer and more pink or red than skin around it.
Treatment depends on the type of arthritis and may include medications, lifestyle changes like exercise and weight control, physical therapy, orthopedic bracing, and dietary modifications. Joint replacement surgery may be required in severe forms of arthritis. Medications can help reduce inflammation in the joint which decreases pain.
People with arthritis may benefit from different forms of exercise like flexibility exercises, aerobic exercises and strengthening exercises. Each one plays an important role in improving and maintaining the ability to move and function properly. Regular exercise keeps joints flexible. Staying active is important, but one should also be sure to rest when one needs and avoid overexerting oneself.
Weight loss and maintaining an ideal body weight reduces the risk of developing arthritis, and can reduce symptoms if one already have it. Eating a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet is important.
Physiotherapy can help people who have arthritis. Physiotherapy helps in improving function, decrease pain, and delay need for surgical intervention in advanced cases. Exercise often focuses on improving muscle strength, endurance and flexibility.
There are specific nutrition guidelines for people with arthritis, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals supplies the body with powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients.
C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood is a marker of inflammation associated with arthritis.
A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and whole grains have shown to reduce pain and improved physical function.
- Several studies have reported that a high fiber diet helps to reduce CRP levels.
An anti-inflammatory diet including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, nuts and oil seeds, fish, olive oil have known to benefit people with arthritis.
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