Monday, September 21, 2009

The five most important problems about arthritis

What is arthritis?
Arthritis is not a single disease. The name arthritis means an inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints usually caused by wear and tear; injury, or infection. Some are genetic. Its causes and consequences are many and varied. The inflammation is often accompanied by pain, swelling, redness and motion limitation. X-rays may show horrifying damage to the joints of people who feel no pain at all, or they may show relatively little damage in people who feel great pain.

What are the different types of arthritis?
There are more than 100 types of arthritis. There's osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis, psoratic arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, systemic infectious arthritis, arthritis associated with a venereal disease and many others. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is often referred to as wear and tear arthritis as it involves the thinning and breakdown of the cartilage lining, which cushions and protects the joints, where two bones meet. The bone may lose shape and thicken at the ends or produce bony spurs. It causes pain in the joints and surrounding soft tissues and limits the range of movement of a joint. Osteoarthritis affects many joints including the large, weight bearing joints of the hips and knees and also the spine, hands, feet and shoulders. There are several reasons for the development of osteoarthritis including age, being overweight, heredity factors, and joint damage from a previous injury or during early development of a joint. The severe pain of osteoarthritis can be very fatiguing and disabling.

Rheumatoid arthritis. This is an auto-immune disease in which the body's immune system (the body's way of fighting infection) attacks healthy joints, tissues, and organs. Occurring most often in women of childbearing age (15-44), this disease inflames the lining (or synovium) of joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints. When severe, rheumatoid arthritis can deform, or change, a joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects mostly joints of the hands and feet and tends to be symmetrical. This means the disease affects the same joints on both sides of the body (like both hands or both feet) at the same time and with the same symptoms. No other form of arthritis is symmetrical. About two to three times as many women as men have this disease.

Gout is a form of arthritis. The joints appear painful, tight and swollen. The pain is caused by needle shaped microcrystals which can destroy the joint cartilage. When a person has gout, they have higher than normal levels of uric acid in the blood. The body makes uric acid from the foods we eat. Too much uric acid causes deposits, called uric acid crystals, which form in the fluid and lining of the joints. If the kidneys don't work properly then you can't get rid of the uric acid in the urine as you should. The result is an extremely painful attack of arthritis. People often inherit gout and although we don't know why, Maori and Pacific island peoples are more likely to get gout. The joint most commonly affected is the big toe.

What causes arthritis?
There are many different causes of arthritis. Some are genetic, some lifestyle-related, and some environmental, such as bacteria and viruses. (The arthritis of Lyme disease, for instance, is caused by bacteria from an infected tick.) Still other causes aren’t yet known or completely understood.

For osteoarthritis, the major cause is often described as wear and tear. But the true cause is not quite so simple as that expression might make it seem. The cartilage in your joints is living tissue, and its cells are continually undergoing changes and repair. For reasons we don’t yet fully understand, as we get older our cartilage is more likely to become damaged and gradually lose its ability to heal itself.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?
Symptoms vary according to the form of arthritis. Each form affects the body differently. Arthritic symptoms generally include swelling and pain or tenderness in one or more joints for more than two weeks, redness or heat in a joint, limitation of motion of a joint, early morning stiffness, and skin changes, including rashes.

How to treat arthritis?
A very simple and effective arthritis treatment method is using heat as well as cold in different situations to get relief from the stiffness and pain in your joints. For heat treatment, using hot water bottles or a hot water pack and even a heat lamp over the exact spot where the pain is occurring will get you relief. A electric blanket,warm shower and even bathe will relieve you off your morning stiffness and start a new day on a more positive note.

For cold treatment, using cold packs over an inflamed and hot and tender joint should provide considerable relief, while in instances of severe pain, a physiotherapist may advise you a deep heat therapy treatment such as ultrasound. When applying different arthritis treatments, it is necessary to learn some new habits that will relieve your pain and help your body cope with arthritis and also mean not having to take drugs for relief.

Pain is a way in which the body warns you that something has gone wrong and you should pay attention these signals, and you must try and stop the activity before it further tires the joints and causes excess pain. Also try and plan your activities in a way that they do not end up causing you more pain. Another arthritis treatment you can use to get relief is to make sure that you only use your strongest muscles and joints. An example of this would be to use thigh muscles instead of the back muscles when lifting a heavy object, or using forearm muscles instead of the wrists to carry or lift or hold objects.

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