• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Arthritis

Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints, causing stiffness and pain that can worsen with age. There are several types of arthritis, with different causes and treatments. 

Two of the most common types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Arthritis is most commonly observed in individuals over the age of 60, however, it can also develop in teens and children.

Arthritis is usually more common in women than men and in people who are obese. Its symptoms develop over time, but sometimes, may appear suddenly.

What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

The most common symptoms and signs of arthritis can be witnessed in the joints. Based on the type of arthritis you might have, your signs and symptoms may include:

  1. Pain

  2. Swelling

  3. Stiffness

  4. Redness

  5. Decreased range of motion

Also, your range of motion may decrease, and you may notice the skin becoming red around the joint.

Usually, the symptoms are worse in the morning. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience a loss of appetite or feel tired due to the inflammation of the immune system’s activity.

You may experience slight fever or sometimes even become anaemic.

In the case of viral arthritis, common symptoms include symmetric joint involvement that can advance as joint pain (arthralgia) or joint inflammation (arthritis) that is similar to rheumatic disease, usually with a distinctive rash.

The joint symptoms can coincide or precede with the symptoms of viral infection. Usually, joint involvement linked with viral arthritis tends to:

  1. Develop suddenly

  2. Not persist

  3. Not recur

What Causes Arthritis?

Cartilage is a rigid but flexible connective tissue in our joints. It protects the joints by absorbing the shock and pressure-formed when you move and put stress on them.

A depletion from the normal amount of this connective tissue causes some forms of arthritis. The definite cause of the immune system’s attacks is unknown.

However, researchers have found genetic markers that increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis fivefold.

Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

The two typical types of arthritis —rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis — they harm the joints in different ways.

Caption: The difference between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis Credits: News-medical

  1. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis causes wear-and-tear damage to our joint’s cartilage.

The cartilage bolsters the ends of the bones and facilitates the smooth motion of the joints, but adequate damage can result in bone damage, leading to pain and restricted movement.

This wear and tear can be accelerated by a joint infection or injury or can occur over several years.

Osteoarthritis acts on the entire joint and can lead to inflammation of the joint lining.

It also creates changes in the bones and deterioration of the connective tissues that attach muscle to bone and hold the joint together.

  1. Rheumatoid arthritis

In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the synovial membrane of the joint capsule, a firm membrane that encases all the joint parts.

This membrane becomes swollen and inflamed. Eventually, the disease can destroy bone and cartilage within the joint.

AC Joint Arthritis

AC joint arthritis is the persistent inflammation of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, one of the four joints that work together to make up the shoulder. 

Caption: Illustration of AC Joint Arthritis Credits: Upswinghealth

Like most cases of arthritis, AC arthritis also occurs when the cartilage protecting the bones within the joint, wears thin.

It can create swelling, pain and a stiff sensation in the joint, which can restrict a person’s range of motion. AC arthritis is usually common in older people.

AC arthritis can be caused by Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Injury to the joint or Bacterial infection of the joint.

The indications of AC joint inflammation start gradually and deteriorate with time. Some basic indications include:

  1. Pain at the highest point of the shoulder that may spread to the side of the neck.

  2. A snapping or clicking sound as you move your shoulder.

  3. Restricted range of motion, such as when lifting your arm.

Treatment of AC arthritis depends on the severity of symptoms and the presence of other shoulder problems including glenohumeral arthritis, impingement syndrome and muscular injury such as a rotator cuff tear.

If the symptoms of AC arthritis are between mild and moderate. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications are the most common conservative treatments.

If the pain is too severe or if the symptoms do not react to conservative treatment, surgery may be necessary.

An arthroscopic treatment can remove the end of the clavicle (collarbone) and facilitate the AC joint to fill with scar tissue.

Likewise, for an isolated AC joint resection, treatment usually lasts about six weeks and often involves working with a physical therapist.

Arthritis Diagnosis and Profile

The arthritis doctor performs a physical exam to check for red or warm joints, fluid around the joints, and bounded range of motion in the joints.

Obtaining and analyzing inflammation levels in your joint fluids and blood can help detect the kind of arthritis present.

Blood tests that check for precise types of antibodies like ANA (antinuclear antibody), RF (rheumatoid factor) and anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide), are also common diagnostic tests.

Arthritis doctors usually use imaging scans such as MRI, CT scans and X-ray, to generate an image of your cartilage and bones. This is performed to rule out other causes of symptoms, such as bone spurs.

How Can Arthritis be Treated?

The main purpose of treatment is to minimize the amount of pain you’re experiencing and prevent additional damage to the joints.

You will realize what works best for you regarding controlling pain. Some people find mobility assistance devices, like canes or walkers, to help take the pressure off sore joints.

Others find ice packs and heating pads to be soothing.

Practice a combination of these treatment methods to achieve the best results.

Medication

Several different types of medication treat arthritis:

  1. Analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or hydrocodone (Vicodin), are effective for pain management.

  2. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as salicylates and ibuprofen (Advil), help curb inflammation and pain. Salicylates can thin the blood, and thus should be used cautiously.

  3. Menthol or capsaicin creams limit or stop the transmission of pain signals from your joints.

  4. Immunosuppressants like prednisone or cortisone help control inflammation.

Surgery

Medical procedure to supplant your joint with an artificial one might be an alternative. This form of surgery is usually performed to replace hips and knees.

If your arthritis is most prominent in your wrists or fingers, your doctor may perform a joint fusion. In this method, the ends of your bones are held together until they heal and become one.

Arthritis Ayurvedic Treatment

Studies show that following ayurvedic methods can help ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, limit flare-ups and reducing inflammation. 

Caption: Massaging the joints in the fingers Credits: Saatwika

Food items like the following can be consumed.

  1. Grains: cooked oats, rice, and cream of wheat that are easy to digest

  2. Legumes: dal, lentils, miso, mung beans, and tofu

  3. Water boiled with ginger root or lukewarm water, to help with digestion and remove toxins

  4. Leafy, green vegetables

  5. Berries

  6. Spices: turmeric, ginger, and garlic, which are anti-inflammatory and aid with digestion

  7. Buttermilk

  8. Wild animal meat

  9. Aged wine in limited amounts

Exercise

Ayurvedic exercises include gentle movements like tai chi, yoga, walking and swimming. Daily meditation and deep breathing are also recommended.

Yoga is chiefly beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis. Yoga for arthritis can improve:

  1. Physical pain

  2. Overall health

  3. Energy

  4. Mental health

Other ayurvedic practices to help your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include:

  1. Herbs and other supplements

  2. Specialized oil therapy

  3. Purification rituals

  4. Herbal pastes

  5. Castor oil

  6. Cold compress

  7. Hot therapy, such as sauna use

Arthritis Oil

Essential oils are an effective treatment for chronic pain diseases like arthritis.

These oils are taken from different components of plants, including the stem, roots, leaves, fruits or flowers. They are typically used for aromatherapy and healing.

1. Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil has several anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It also helps improve blood circulation.

A 2013 study concluded that inhaling eucalyptus oil can significantly reduce pain, inflammation and blood pressure.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you can apply this diluted gel or oil to the affected area to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

2. Ginger oil

Ginger is a common healing agent used for its pain-relieving effects and anti-inflammatory properties.

A 2001 study evaluated the analgesic effects of ginger on the knee and joint pain in arthritis patients. More than half of the people using the ginger extract in the study had reduced knee pain.

They also used less drugs over time to treat their joint pain.

Caption: Oil made from ginger Credits: Uncategory

To use ginger oil, you can apply a few drops on the affected area. For an added effect, use a hot compress after massaging the area with oil.

3. Turmeric oil

Turmeric is a healing agent and a herb. It contains curcumin, an active anti-inflammatory substance.

In the form of essential oil, turmeric can be used to stimulate blood circulation, improve digestion and reduce inflammation.

To treat rheumatoid arthritis, you can infuse the essential oil into the air or apply the turmeric oil to the affected area. Turmeric can also be used as a spice, well known for healing, that can be added during cooking.

4. Frankincense oil

Frankincense is a type of Boswellia genus and is obtained from the dried sap of trees. For centuries, it has been used as an incense.

It is also known for its regenerative, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. A 2010 study confirmed frankincense as an effective treatment for limiting inflammatory symptoms, specifically from osteoarthritis. To treat rheumatoid joint pain, apply weakened frankincense oil on the influenced zone.

What Type of a Doctor Treats Arthritis?

Usually, primary care doctors can treat osteoarthritis, but sometimes a specialist is needed.

Orthopedists

Orthopedists are doctors who treat diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system, including osteoarthritis.

For arthritis that gets worse despite treatment, they can give injections of hyaluronic acid (a compound that lubricates joints) or corticosteroids (a powerful anti-inflammatory drugs).

For viral joint inflammation that causes serious pain, an orthopaedic specialist can perform a medical procedure, for example, joint substitution.

Rheumatologists

Rheumatologists specialize in autoimmune conditions and musculoskeletal diseases. They treat all types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.

If there is a chance you having something other than osteoarthritis, you should consult a rheumatologist.

They do not perform surgery but, cater treatment for joint diseases, including prescribing medications and giving injections.

World Arthritis Day

Since 1996, October 12 is known as World Arthritis Day, a global initiative uniting people from diverse fields to raise awareness of musculoskeletal and rheumatic diseases (MRDs) and how it affects the lives of those who endure with it.

World Arthritis Day was initiated to inspire policymakers to help minimize the burden of those suffering from arthritis all over the world.

Conclusion

Having a good and complete understanding of your condition will help you know about treatment options in hand and why exercise and other self-management practices are important.

If you have arthritis it does have the possibility to have a significant impact on your quality of life. However, with the right support, treatment, knowledge and approach, you will be able to live a happy, fulfilling, and successful life.

The more you can stay socially and physically active, the more control you will have over your life, and the less control arthritis will have over you.

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