What is Arthritis? A Comprehensive View


what is arthritis

It is important to know what is arthritis and its symptoms to manage it effectively. Arthritis is a term used to refer to inflammation of the joints. To define arthritis, it may be stated that it is swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. Some of the most common arthritis symptoms are stiffness and joint pain and these are found to worsen significantly with age. The most common arthritis types are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and each may have different causes and problems. To know more about this, refer to DocTube.

Causes of Arthritis 

1) Osteoarthritis 

i) Age

It is commonly seen that the risk of osteoarthritis increases as a person ages. 

ii) Joint injury

Previous injuries, such as fractures or dislocations, can lead to the development of osteoarthritis in affected joints (Roos, E.M., 2005. Joint injury causes knee osteoarthritis in young adults. Current opinion in rheumatology, 17(2), pp.195-200).

iii) Obesity

When a person is obese, the excessive body weight puts a huge amount of additional stress on knees, hips and other weight-bearing joints.

iv) Genetics

Genetic factors may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.

2) Rheumatoid Arthritis 

i) Autoimmune factors

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the synovium or the lining of the membranes that surround the joints. 

ii) Genetics

There is a genetic component and individuals with a family history of rheumatoid arthritis may be at a higher risk (Aho, K. and Heliövaara, M., 2004. Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of medicine, 36(4), pp.242-251).

iii) Gender

When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, women are more prone to suffer from it than men.

iv) Environmental factors

Certain environmental factors, such as smoking, may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of Arthritis

The symptoms of arthritis often vary as per the type of arthritis and the specific joints affected. Here are some common symptoms associated with various forms of arthritis:

i) Joint Pain

One of the most common arthritis symptoms is a persistent pain that occurs in one or more joints (Dai, S.M., Han, X.H., Zhao, D.B., Shi, Y.Q., Liu, Y. and Meng, J.M., 2003. Prevalence of rheumatic symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and gout in Shanghai, China: a COPCORD study. The Journal of rheumatology, 30(10), pp.2245-2251). The pain may be aching, throbbing, or sharp and it can range from mild to severe.

ii) Joint Stiffness

Stiffness in the affected joints, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity is common. This stiffness often improves with movement.

 iii) Swelling

Inflammation of the joints can lead to swelling, making the affected joints appear larger and feel tender to the touch.

iv) Redness and Warmth

Inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause redness and warmth around the affected joints.

v) Decreased Range of Motion

Arthritis can lead to a reduced range of motion in the affected joints, making it difficult to move them fully (Somers, T.J., Wren, A.A. and Shelby, R.A., 2012. The context of pain in arthritis: self-efficacy for managing pain and other symptoms. Current pain and headache reports, 16, pp.502-508).

vi) Fatigue

Many people with arthritis experience fatigue, which can be related to the body's response to inflammation and the effort required to cope with pain and stiffness.

vii) Weakness and Muscle Atrophy

Persistent joint inflammation can lead to weakness in the muscles surrounding the affected joint and, over time, muscle atrophy.

viii) Joint Deformities

In some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, prolonged inflammation can lead to joint deformities, where the joints take on an abnormal shape (Callahan, L.F., Mielenz, T., Freburger, J., Shreffler, J., Hootman, J., Brady, T., Buysse, K. and Schwartz, T., 2008. A randomized controlled trial of the people with arthritis can exercise program: symptoms, function, physical activity, and psychosocial outcomes. Arthritis Care & Research: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology, 59(1), pp.92-101).

ix) Fever and Weight Loss

Inflammatory arthritis may be associated with systemic symptoms like fever and unintentional weight loss. 

x) Difficulty with Daily Activities

As arthritis progresses, it may become challenging to perform daily activities that involve the affected joints, such as walking, climbing stairs or gripping objects.

Management of Arthritis

The management of arthritis is aimed at alleviating symptoms, improving joint function and enhancing overall quality of life. The specific approach to management depends on the type of arthritis, its severity and individual factors. Below mentioned are some of the general strategies and interventions commonly used in the management of arthritis:

1) Medications

i) Pain relievers

Over-the-counter analgesics or pain relievers can help manage pain.

ii) Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

These drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation (Silverstein, F.E., Faich, G., Goldstein, J.L., Simon, L.S., Pincus, T., Whelton, A., Makuch, R., Eisen, G., Agrawal, N.M., Stenson, W.F. and Burr, A.M., 2000. Gastrointestinal toxicity with celecoxib vs nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: the CLASS study: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 284(10), pp.1247-1255).

iii) Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs

These medications are often used in inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, to slow down disease progression.

2) Physical Therapy

Physical therapists can design exercise programs to improve joint flexibility, strengthen muscles and enhance overall joint function. Techniques such as hot and cold therapy may also be recommended.

3) Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists can provide strategies to make daily activities easier and less painful, as well as suggest assistive devices (Steultjens, E.E., Dekker, J.J., Bouter, L.M., Schaardenburg, D.D., Kuyk, M.A.M. and Van den Ende, E.C., 2004. Occupational therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (1)).

4) Lifestyle Modifications

i) Weight Management

For individuals with osteoarthritis, maintaining a healthy weight can reduce stress on weight-bearing joints.

ii) Exercise

Low-impact activities such as swimming, walking and cycling can help improve joint flexibility and strengthen muscles (Hailey, L.H., Amarnani, R., Bundy, C., McGagh, D., James, L., Kirtley, S., O'Sullivan, D., Steinkoenig, I., Suribhatla, R., Vivekanantham, A. and Coates, L.C., 2023. Lifestyle modifications and nonpharmacologic interventions to improve outcomes in psoriatic arthritis: a systematic review. Clinical Therapeutics).

iii) Joint Protection

Using joint protection techniques, such as proper body mechanics and avoiding repetitive movements, can help reduce strain on joints.

5) Surgery

In severe cases or when conservative measures fail, surgical interventions such as joint replacement may be considered.

6) Pain Management Techniques

Techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises and meditation can help manage pain and improve overall well-being.

7) Medication Adjustments

Regular follow-ups with healthcare providers are essential to monitor the effectiveness of medications and make adjustments as needed.

8) Joint Injections

In some cases, injections of corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid into the affected joints may provide temporary relief (Rydell, N.W., Butler, J. and Balazs, E.A., 1970. Hyaluronic acid in synovial fluid: VI. Effect of intra-articular injection of hyaluronic acid on the clinical symptoms of arthritis in track horses. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 11(2), p.139).

9) Supportive Measures

Support groups and counseling can provide emotional support and coping strategies for individuals living with arthritis.

10) Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Some people find relief through complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage or dietary supplements. It is however crucial to consult and take the advice of a doctor before going for such therapies and approaches. 


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