Could That Joint Pain Be Arthritis?

Arthritis Pain
Mrs Rita Sen, ‘Rita Miss’ to hundreds of her students who still remember her as their ramrod straight, elegant teacher of English who was much respected and loved. Now touching 84, the elderly lady has to walk with support, as her movement has become painful owing to arthritis.

Mrs Sen lost her husband to a cardiac arrest last year, and with her daughter settled in London, she lives alone. She manages with household help, and the spirited old lady has not let the pitfalls of life affect her. Lately, chronic pain has restricted her movements and she has been finding it difficult to perform daily activities like cooking and gardening which keeps her happy.

A Mrs Sen exists in almost every household in our country. With age comes grey hair, wisdom and joint pain! Arthritis, however, is not restricted only to the elderly. Increasingly younger people are also becoming victims of the condition that was earlier equated with hold age.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is the inflammation in one or more joints. The inflammation causes stiffness, pain and swelling in the joints and surrounding tissues, which worsens with age. The two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is caused by joint damage. Joints are covered by a protective tissue called cartilage. Cartilage helps in keeping the movement of the joint fluid. When this cartilage breaks down, it causes the bones that form the joint to rub against each other, which in turn results in stiffness and pain. Osteoarthritis is also referred to as degenerative disease as it usually occurs in older people as a natural process of wear and tear. It is a condition that can occur in any joint in the body. The areas most commonly affected, however, are hands, fingertips, knees, hips and spine.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder. When immune systems mistake the soft lining around joints to be a threat and attack them, it causes fluid build-up in the joints leading to stiffness and pain. It is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect more than just your joints. It can affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.

Types of Arthritis

Other types of inflammatory arthritis include:

  • Psoriatic arthritisincludes scaly spots on the skin along with swelling in some or all the joints. The condition may also be identified with back stiffness, and at times, swelling of fingers or toe, resulting in a sausage-like appearance.
  • Gout and pseudogout, in which needle-like crystals of uric acid or rhomboid-shaped crystals of calcium pyrophosphate, respectively, form in cartilage and are released into the joint fluid, producing painful effects. Gout is most common in the metatarsophalangeal joint or the first toe, where it meets the foot but may also be common in other joints, such as the midfoot, ankles, knees, and bursa of the elbow. Pseudogout is more common in the elders and generally involves the ankles, wrists, knees, and shoulders.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS)and related conditions affect the spine and peripheral joints. These conditions can be identified with severe morning stiffness in the spine.
  • Parvovirus arthritisis a contagious, viral form of arthritis that may cause flu-like symptoms and rashes. Children suffering from the fifth disease (Erythema infectiosum) due to parvovirus will have a classic slapped-cheek appearance of rashes. Although parvovirus arthritis resolves within a few weeks, some patients may keep experiencing ongoing symptoms.
  • Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete (bacteria) contracted via the bite of an infected deer tick. The condition typically reveals IA symptoms in later stages but in some cases may include early symptoms such as rashes, chills, fever, fatigue, headache, and an aching neck. Although blood testing is useful once arthritis develops, it may be falsely negative if tested fairly early in Lyme disease.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or lupus is an inflammatory condition that usually involves all systems of the human body. Arthritis is one of the single most common ways for lupus to present, and lupus arthritis appears similar to the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis. Some of the common signs of lupus include sun-sensitive skin rashes, mouth sores, rapid hair loss, chest pain with a deep breath, and a positive ANA blood test.

Living with Arthritis

Irrespective of the type of arthritis you have, it will be easier to stay ahead of your pain if you:

  • Learn all you can about your condition, including what type of arthritis you have and whether.
  • Keep your joints moving. Do daily, gentle stretches that move your joints.
  • Maintain good posture. A physical therapist can show you how to sit, stand and move correctly.
  • Balance your activities and don’t overdo them. Lifestyle changes are important for easing pain.
  • Manage weight. Being overweight can increase complications and contribute to increased arthritis pain. Making lifestyle changes is often the most effective method of weight management.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking leads to stress on connective tissues, which tends to increase arthritis pain.

Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis can be treated with occupational or physical therapy, exercise. Over-the-counter pain-relieving medications are also prescribed.

Surgical options for the treatment of arthritis include synovectomy, arthroscopy, osteotomy, and total joint replacement. While the first three offer relief from pain, they cannot completely cure the condition. In most cases, the only cure for arthritis is joint replacement surgery.

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