Saturday, August 18, 2007


Arthritis is actually not a disease; it is really a joint disorder. It literally means inflammation of the joints. It is derived from the Greek word Arthron, which means joint. It is actually a general term for a group of more than 100 diseases.

Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction fighting off various diseases. Inflammation can also be caused by injury, infection, autoimmune disease or the body’s own “wear and tear” (of joints) process. Inflammation that lasts for a long time can lead to tissue damage. Inflammation that does not go away or results in long term pain or deformity is considered arthritis.

In a healthy body, the joints care covered by a smooth spongy material called cartilage, which acts as a cushion between the joints, and allows the joints to move without pain. Each joint is enclosed in a fibrous casing called synovium. This synovium lining produces a synovial fluid which nourishes the joints and helps in limiting friction.

Ligaments connect the bones and keep the joints stable, while muscles and tendons support the joints enabling movement. In arthritis, the area in and around the joints becomes inflamed. This inflammation causes pain, stiffness in the joints and difficulty moving.

Arthritis occurs in both men and women, and can strike at any age; however it is more common in older people. Around 70 million or 1 in 3 Americans suffer from some form of arthritis, and it is a major cause of lost work time and a serious disability for many people. In people over the age of 55, women are more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis. This is the most common variety of arthritis in the U.S.
The Different Types Of Arthritis Include

* Osteoarthritis
* Fibromyalgia
* Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
* Osteoporosis
* Paget’s disease
* Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
* Rheumatoid Arthritis
* Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
* Gout
* Scleroderma
* Psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis
* Ankylosing spondylitis
* Reiter's syndrome/Reactive arthritis
* Adult Still's disease
* Tertiary Lyme disease
* Polymyalgia Rheumatica
* Pseudogout
* Raynaud's Phenomenon
* Repetitive Stress Injury
* Sjögren's Syndrome

These different types of arthritis mostly have causes that are unknown. Researchers however, believe that genetics (heredity) and lifestyle behaviors play an important part in the development of arthritis.

And though the exact cause of arthritis is not known, there are several risk factors. They include;

* Age
* Gender
* Obesity
* Work factors
* History of trauma
* Various genetic or metabolic diseases

As a person gets older, their risk of developing arthritis, especially osteoarthritis increases considerably. Older women in general tend to suffer more from arthritis than men. Being overweight also puts extra stress on various joints in the body, increasing the body’s natural wear and tear process, thus increasing the risk for developing arthritis. Jobs that require heavy lifting or repetitive movements causing stress and injury to joints also lead to arthritis.
People With Arthritis May Suffer From Some Or All Of The Following Symptoms;

* Joint pain or swelling
* Early morning stiffness
* Warmth around a joint
* Redness of skin around a joint
* Reduced ability to move a joint &
* Unexplainable weight loss, fever or weakness/fatigue that occurs with joint pain

Different types of arthritis have different symptoms and all the symptoms vary from person to person. Osteoarthritis does not generally cause any symptoms outside the joint.

To treat arthritis, treatment varies with each particular cause. It depends on firstly, how severe the arthritis is, then, which joints are affected, after that, to what degree the patient is affected and lastly the person, age, job and activities.

The goal of arthritis treatment is usually to provide pain relief and increase joint strength and mobility. Remember arthritis is not curable, but it can be treated effectively for one to go on and lead a healthy life.
Treatment Options For Arthritis Include;

* Medication – Medications reduces joint pain and swelling. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), acetaminophen, aspirin, corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive drugs are used to ease the pain caused by arthritis.
* Exercise – Exercise is very important as it keeps the joints flexible. Simple stretching exercises can be extremely beneficial.
* Surgery – Surgery is usually the last resort. It is done to rebuild the joint (arthroplasty) or to replace the joint (total knee joint replacement) and help the person lead a more normal lifestyle. The decision to perform surgery is made when other alternatives, such as lifestyle changes and medications are no longer effective.
* Use of joint protection – Knee or elbow caps are often used by people to ease the pain and increase mobility.

If diagnosed early most types of arthritis can be managed, and the damage to joints minimized. Early treatment of arthritis manages both pain and disability. In rheumatoid arthritis for example, early aggressive treatment can prevent damage and disability in the long run. In some cases, simple modifications to daily activities can help ease the pain of arthritis.

Arthritis is not preventable, but you can take certain steps to reduce your risk for developing this disorder. They include;

* Maintaining a healthy weight.
* Exercising regularly.
* Using joint protection devices and techniques at work.
* And eating a healthy diet.

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