Arthritis

Although viewed as one single disease, arthritis is a group of over 100 medical conditions, characterized by painful swelling and inflammation of the joints in the body.  The joint damage from the disease causes weakness, unsteadiness and visible damage, negatively affecting daily life for most patients with arthritis.

Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is characterized by disintegration of joint cartilage and the bone that lies beneath, and is often found in the knee, hip and thumbs, causing stiffness and pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the lining of the joints evenly on both sides of the body.  This type of arthritis frequently affects other organs in the body.

Juvenile arthritis is diagnosed when the disease occurs in a patient under the age of 16.

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterized by whole body pain and tenderness in the soft tissues, joints and muscles.

Psoriatic arthritis is joint inflammation in about 15% of people who have been diagnosed with the skin condition psoriasis.

Gout occurs when uric acid accumulates in the blood and causes joint inflammation.

Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that destroys the glands that produce tears and saliva, causing dry mouth and eyes.  The kidney and lungs may also be affected.

Most types of arthritis cause fatigue, headaches and sleep problems and patients may struggle with anxiety and depression.

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Causes of Arthritis

Researchers have not discovered a single factor that causes arthritis.  Known factors that contribute or can trigger arthritis to develop:

         There is a strong genetic tendency toward arthritis in families;

         Osteoarthritis can develop in joints which have suffered an injury; 

         A physically demanding job with repetitive moments;

         Excessive weight which can place stress on joints; and

         Food allergies are being researched as possible arthritic triggers.

Treatment of Arthritis

The treatment of arthritis depends on the type, severity, and duration of the disease.  Current treatment includes:

         Low impact exercise, strength training and stretching;

         Physical therapy including massage and water therapy;

         Over the counter medicines including acetaminophen to control pain and non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling;

         Prescription drugs including biologics, steroids, immunosuppressants and DMARDS (disease modifying anti-rheumatic) drugs.  While successful at abating symptoms and pain, prescription drugs can have serious side effects.

Though most types of arthritis are chronic conditions medical research continues to provide improved treatment options while searching for a cure for this group of diseases.