Living with Arthritis
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints, which results in pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited movement. There are over 100 different types of arthritis.
Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage normally protects the joint, allowing for smooth movement. Cartilage also absorbs shock when pressure is placed on the joint, like when you walk. Without the usual amount of cartilage, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling (inflammation), and stiffness.
You may have joint inflammation for a variety of reasons, including:
-An autoimmune disease (the body attacks itself because the immune system believes a body part is foreign)
-General "wear and tear" on joints
-Infection (usually caused by bacteria or viruses)
Often, the inflammation goes away after the injury has healed, the disease is treated, or the infection has been cleared.
With some injuries and diseases, the inflammation does not go away or destruction results in long-term pain and deformity. When this happens, you have chronic arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type and is more likely to occur as you age. You may feel it in any of your joints, but most commonly in your hips, knees or fingers. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
-Previously injuring the affected joint
-Using the affected joint in a repetitive action that puts stress on the joint (baseball players, ballet dancers, and construction workers are all at risk)
Arthritis can occur in men and women of all ages.
If you have arthritis, you may experience:
-Reduced ability to move the joint
-Redness of the skin around a joint
-Stiffness, especially in the morning
-Warmth around a joint
First, your doctor will take a detailed medical history to see if arthritis or another musculoskeletal problem is the likely cause of your symptoms.
Next, a thorough physical examination may show that fluid is collecting in the joint. (This is called an "effusion.") The joint may be tender when it is gently pressed, and may be warm and red (especially in infectious arthritis and autoimmune arthritis). It may be painful or difficult to rotate the joints in some directions. This is known as "limited range-of-motion."
In some autoimmune forms of arthritis, the joints may become deformed if the disease is not treated. Such joint deformities are the hallmarks of severe, untreated rheumatoid arthritis.
Tests vary depending on the suspected cause. They often include blood tests and joint x-rays. To check for infection and other causes of arthritis (like gout caused by crystals), joint fluid is removed from the joint with a needle and examined under a microscope. See the specific types of arthritis for further information.
Treatment of arthritis depends on the particular cause, which joints are affected, severity, and how the condition affects your daily activities. Your age and occupation will also be taken into consideration when your doctor works with you to create a treatment plan.
If possible, treatment will focus on eliminating the underlying cause of the arthritis. However, the cause is NOT necessarily curable, as with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment, therefore, aims at reducing your pain and discomfort and preventing further disability.
It is possible to greatly improve your symptoms from osteoarthritis and other long-term types of arthritis without medications. In fact, making lifestyle changes without medications is preferable for osteoarthritis and other forms of joint inflammation. If needed, medications should be used in addition to lifestyle changes.
Exercise for arthritis is necessary to maintain healthy joints, relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength. Your exercise programme should be tailored to you as an individual. Work with a physical therapist to design an individualised programme, which should include:
-Low-impact aerobic activity (also called endurance exercise)
-Range of motion exercises for flexibility
-Strength training for muscle tone.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009