Over half a million dollars in lost wages will be caused by arthritis in just one year. It is important to understand the economic impact of arthritis on society. Each year, it takes a severe financial toll on society. Over the past ten years, arthritis-related work loss has been associated to a 37% decrease in income for arthritics. All those without arthritis saw a 90% increase in income over that same time period. The Greek word “arthritis” comes from “arthron” which means “joint” or “itis”, which means inflammation. Arthritis can be used to describe over 100 conditions, some involving inflammation, others not. Arthritis isn’t a single condition. Arthritis can be caused by a variety of conditions that affect the joints and pose unique challenges for diagnosis and treatment.
The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Joint inflammation is a common feature of arthritis. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and infection. Unfortunately, arthritis is a case where this natural defense mechanism goes wrong. Instead, elements from the blood that are designed to fight infection or repair injury attack the body. This inflammatory process will continue to attack the body, causing joint destruction, unless it is stopped. You can see that treatments that only relieve arthritis pain but do not reduce inflammation may not be effective in treating this condition. Many people with arthritis avoid seeing a doctor. They may be afraid of going to the doctor or feel that there is nothing they can do about arthritis.
Others may believe that all arthritis medications are dangerous or that arthritis is a normal part aging. People try unproven treatments that can delay diagnosis and treatment. Because arthritis can develop slowly, many people ignore early warning signs and symptoms. Low back pain is one sign of arthritis. Low back pain is most common in people over 60. Arthritis activity is unpredictable. The symptoms of arthritis are unpredictable and cyclic. It is important to remember that arthritis symptoms that last more than six weeks, no matter how mild, should be seen by a physician. If symptoms are severe, even six weeks may be too long.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a common type. Both types of arthritis involve joint inflammation. Nearly 16 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative disc disease, is a disorder in cartilage. This is the gristle that covers long bones. Cartilage is made up of cells called chondrocytes that sit within a framework of collagen and proteoglyens. Normal conditions allow chondrocytes to make collagen and proglycens. In other words, they create the framework in which they sit. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which chondrocytes become abnormally active and produce destructive enzymes like collagenasese and stromelysin.
This causes progressive pain, stiffness, loss of function, and eventually, death. Osteoarthritis is most evident in the form of stiffness and joint pain. Morning stiffness lasts for less than 15 minutes. Osteoarthritis is most common in weight bearing areas, such as the neck, low back and hips, knees, and hips. It can also affect fingers and hands, and bony knobs could appear at the finger joint. The thumb’s base may also be affected. Osteoarthritis in the hands is most common. It affects the distal and proximal interphalangeal joints (DIP, PIP) of the fingers and the carpometacarpal joint (CMC).
Osteoarthritis can be considered a degenerative joint disease. Inflammation can also cause damage to the inside of the joint. This causes damage to cartilage, which is the substance that forms the joint’s surface and acts as a shock absorber. The underlying bone becomes damaged as the cartilage thins. This causes progressive pain, stiffness, loss of function, and eventually, death. Osteoarthritis doesn’t have to be severe. It can be managed with the right medical care. Rheumatoid is another type of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect anyone, but it is more common in middle-aged people.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually causes heat, swelling, pain, and tenderness in multiple joints on both the right- and left-sides of the body. This includes the hands, wrists and elbows, hips and knees, ankles and feet, as well as the hips, wrists and elbows. Spinal involvement can also occur occasionally. The typical pattern for rheumatoid hands arthritis involves the proximal (PIP), metacarpal (MCP), wrists, elbows, and metacarpal (MP) joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the whole body, unlike osteoarthritis.
The immune system attacks the tissues that surround and nourish the joints in rheumatoid. The body mistakenly considers its own tissue foreign and responds by sending out special white blood cells and toxic chemicals called Cytokine to destroy the foreign material. This white cell migration and cytokine production causes joint damage. Researchers are still investigating many possible causes of rheumatoid. Another interesting aspect of rheumatoid is the possibility that the disease can affect the internal organs, including the lungs and skin. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause irreversible damage to the joints and even permanent disability if it is not managed properly. The rheumatologist determines if there is joint pain or inflammation that lasts at least six weeks.
Next, he/she looks for signs that indicate the progression of the disease. Rheumatoid-arthritis can also be diagnosed by blood tests. Rheumatoid arthritis patients experience a series of flare ups, followed by periods with mild or no symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis usually causes progressive disability and pain. Morning stiffness lasts for more than 30 minutes and can last several hours depending upon the severity of the condition. Most forms of arthritis last for the patient’s entire life. The bone and soft tissue damage that arthritis causes cannot be reversed by medication.
One such technique is magnetic resonance imaging. This technique uses the effects of strong magnets on water molecules to produce stunning images of the inside of the body. MRI can be used to diagnose and assess the extent of arthritis-related damage in joints. It can also be used to evaluate the effects of new drugs. While there is no cure, treatment can make a huge difference. The goal of arthritis treatment, which is to reduce pain and stiffness caused by the progressive destruction of inflammation, and to increase mobility, is to alleviate or improve mobility. There have been many advances in the medical treatment for arthritis. These medications not only help with symptoms but also slow down the progression.
There are also cartilage-growing drugs, cartilage sparing drugs and biologic remedies. These drugs block the destructive effects of enzymes like cytokines and metalloproteases in osteoarthritis. With fewer side effects, it is possible to treat specific symptoms and heal damage with less side effects.
What should you do if you suspect you may have arthritis? First, consult your doctor. Because medical issues can be complicated, your doctor can help you choose the best treatment. A rheumatologist is the type of doctor that can best assess arthritis. These doctors have completed four years in medical school, three years in internal medicine residency, and three more years of rheumatology fellowship. Although arthritis can be a serious condition that can cause disability and progress, science has provided some new solutions for those suffering from the disease. The arthritis sufferer must recognize the early warning signs and symptoms, and consult a rheumatologist. The course of this crippling disease can be reversed with proper medical care. People can return to full activity without suffering from crippling disability or pain.