Arthritis is an inflammatory joint disorder characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased mobility in the affected joints. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds and is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Injuries can make the condition worse.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and occurs due to wear and tear on the joints over time. It typically affects weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, spine, and hands.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, the protective tissue that cushions the ends of bones in the joints.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the synovium, the lining of the joints. RA commonly affects the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, but it can also involve larger joints and other organs.
Inflammation associated with RA can lead to joint damage, deformity, and systemic complications.
Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)
Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that occurs in some individuals with psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by red, scaly patches.
PsA can affect any joint in the body and may also cause inflammation of the skin, nails, eyes, and other organs. Symptoms vary widely and may include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and nail changes.
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the spine and sacroiliac joints in the pelvis. AS causes inflammation of the spinal vertebrae, leading to stiffness, pain, and reduced mobility, particularly in the lower back and buttocks.
In advanced cases, ankylosing spondylitis can result in fusion of the spinal joints, causing a rigid, stooped posture.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Persistent or recurrent pain in one or more joints is a hallmark symptom of arthritis. Pain may worsen with movement, activity, or weight-bearing and may be accompanied by tenderness, warmth, and swelling in the affected joint.
Arthritis-related stiffness is often more pronounced in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Stiffness may improve with gentle movement and activity but tends to worsen as the day progresses.
Inflammation of the joint lining can cause swelling, redness, and warmth around the affected joint. Swelling may be more noticeable during periods of disease flare-ups or after physical exertion.
Decreased Range of Motion
Arthritis can restrict joint movement and flexibility, leading to difficulty performing everyday tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, and gripping objects. Reduced range of motion may contribute to functional limitations and impaired quality of life.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help relieve pain and inflammation.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used to treat autoimmune forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.
- Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and manage symptoms during disease flares.
Physical therapy and exercise programs can help improve joint flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Therapeutic exercises, stretching, and aquatic therapy may be beneficial for individuals with arthritis in reducing pain and improving functional abilities.
Occupational therapists can provide adaptive equipment, assistive devices, and ergonomic recommendations to help individuals with arthritis perform daily activities more comfortably and efficiently.
Lifestyle modifications such as weight management, healthy eating, and quitting smoking can help reduce inflammation and improve overall joint health. Avoiding repetitive motions and maintaining good posture can help minimize stress on joints.
In cases of severe joint damage or persistent symptoms that do not respond to conservative treatments, surgical interventions such as joint replacement surgery or joint fusion may be considered to restore function and alleviate pain.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Complementary approaches such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and dietary supplements (e.g., glucosamine, chondroitin) may provide symptomatic relief for some individuals with arthritis.
However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment regimen to ensure the treatment is safe and effective.