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Common Types of Arthritis: Ways to Manage the Joint Disease

The basic features of arthritis are stiffness, swelling, redness and pain of the inflamed joints. This disease usually occurs during old age; however, younger people may also be affected.

The pathogenesis of arthritis varies depending on the type. Some common types of arthritis are: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout. Other types include infectious arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, etc. An individual can have more than one type of arthritis simultaneously.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease wherein the white blood cells attack the body’s own cells. In this case, the cells attacked are located in the joints, which explains the redness and warmth (accumulation of blood in the area), swelling, and pain in the joint areas. In most cases, symmetry of infection (ex: both right and left knee joints) is observed. Other symptoms are morning stiffness, fatigue, mild fever and weight loss.

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There is no single definitive test for the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. However, anemia, the presence of rheumatoid factor (RF) and increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate in the blood tests are consistent with this disease.

It is unknown what causes rheumatoid arthritis. It is theorized that certain changes in the immune cells, believed to be brought about by genetic predisposition and by infection, cause them to go haywire.

Medications which aim to slow the progression of the disease are important, to prevent joint damage and disability later on.

Eating fish which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and antioxidant vitamins are considered helpful in preventing this type of arthritis. Smoking should also be avoided, as it is found to increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, from the word “osteo,” meaning bone, is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage in the joint area which leads to inflammation. The destruction of the bone can occur when there is mechanical stress to the area. In most cases, the inflammation occurs in one part of the body only (ex: right knee or left knee, not both); and there is joint pain during or after use of such joint.

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by x-ray on the affected area, which shows narrowing of joint space and bone spurs around the joint.

It is helpful to get adequate calcium and vitamin D, for bone strengthening and development, and exercise. Maintaining an ideal weight along with healthy diet is also recommended.

It must be noted that some medications (e.g., corticosteroids, certain anti-inflammatory drugs) can accelerate osteoarthritis. Increased age, joint injury, overweight, and weakening of muscle (that serves as protective shock absorber around the joint) are also risk factors for osteoarthritis.

  • Gout

Gout is the result of years of accumulation of uric acid in the joints, which causes the pain and swelling. Uric acid is the product of purine metabolism, thus taking increased amounts of purine will lead to increased accumulation of uric acid. High-purine foods include meat organs (liver, kidney and brain), seafood (anchovies, herring, sardines, scallops, lobster) and beans. People with gout should minimize intake of these foods as well as limit meat protein.

Presence of uric acid crystals on microscopic examination of synvoial fluid indicates gout.

Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, alcohol consumption and diabetes are also risk factors for gout.

Correcting hyperuricemia, increasing fluid intake, diet modification, and urate-lowering drugs, if necessary, can help treat gout.

Treatment

Treatment for arthritis pain involves the use of pain-relieving drugs and creams.

Hot and cold compress will help alleviate pain. Moist, hot compress is recommended.

Exercise, as long as it does not stress the joints, and choosing appropriate footwear are also important.

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