UN­DER­STAND­ING ARTHRI­TIS

You can’t choose whether you’ll get arthri­tis, but you can take steps to min­i­mize its im­pact on your life.

Health & Nutrition - - FIT & FAMOUS -

The aches and pains may come from a sin­gle joint in just one fin­ger, or from mul­ti­ple joints through­out your body. And, although the in­ten­sity of the pain may rise and fall, it may be an ob­sta­cle to per­form­ing day-to-day tasks that you once took for granted. For most types of arthri­tis, there’s no cure. And, even if your pain di­min­ishes, it may never to­tally go away. How­ever, there are strate­gies that you and your doc­tor can use to re­duce arthri­tis pain, pos­si­bly slow dis­ease pro­gres­sion and over­come ob­sta­cles that arthri­tis pain may cause.

In ad­di­tion to long-avail­able med­i­cal treat­ments such as pain med­i­ca­tions and sur­gi­cal joint re­place­ment, ad­vances con­tinue to be made with drugs, surgery and other ther­a­pies. And, it’s well es­tab­lished that your at­ti­tude and life­style are an in­te­gral part of op­ti­mal treat­ment.

TWO MAIN TYPES

Arthri­tis oc­curs in more than 100 forms with vary­ing signs and symp­toms. Gen­er­ally, arthri­tis refers to a dis­ease of the joints, which can of­ten re­sult in joint pain, swelling, stiff­ness – or loss of joint func­tion over time. Some forms of arthri­tis can be ac­com­pa­nied by prob­lems of mus­cles, ten­dons and lig­a­ments sur­round­ing a joint or, more rarely, your skin or in­ter­nal or­gans. The two most common types of arthri­tis are: OS­TEOARTHRI­TIS – Of­ten called de­gen­er­a­tive or wear-and-tear arthri­tis, os­teoarthri­tis usu­ally first ap­pears after age 40 or 50 and de­vel­ops slowly. Se­vere trauma to a joint can some­times cause more rapid de­vel­op­ment of os­teoarthri­tis. It’s thought to be caused by the wear­ing out of a joint through use or overuse. It oc­curs when car­ti­lage – a tough, smooth, slip­pery tis­sue that cush­ions the bone ends in your joints -- de­te­ri­o­rates, caus­ing the nor­mally smooth sur­faces to roughen. Even­tu­ally, car­ti­lage may wear away to the point where bone ends touch and rub. The main signs and symp­toms of os­teoarthri­tis are pain, stiff­ness and – oc­ca­sion­ally – swelling in a joint. Th­ese typ­i­cally come on slowly with pe­ri­ods of rel­a­tive calm al­ter­nat­ing with flare­ups. The flare-ups of­ten follow ac­tiv­ity in­volv­ing the joint, es­pe­cially when the joint is overused. Flare-ups may also coin­cide with a change in the weather. Os­teoarthri­tis can oc­cur in es­sen­tially any joint, but usu­ally af­fects only a few joints on one or both sides of the body. It com­monly oc­curs in the knees and hips, fin­gers, the joint at the base of the thumb and the joint at the base of the big toe. In ad­di­tion, it com­monly oc­curs in the spine. Although it’s not known ex­actly what causes os­teoarthri­tis, car­ti­lage dam­age is a key fac­tor. An ab­nor­mal­ity of your joint struc­ture or a pre­vi­ous joint in­jury may in­crease your risk of de­vel­op­ing car­ti­lage dam­age. Other risk fac­tors, in ad­di­tion to sim­ply get­ting older, in­clude lack of ex­er­cise, ex­ces­sive weight and cer­tain ge­netic con­di­tions. RHEUMA­TOID ARTHRI­TIS – This usu­ally be­gins be­tween the ages of 25 and 50, of­ten de­vel­op­ing within weeks or months. About 75 per cent of those with rheuma­toid arthri­tis are women. Un­like os­teoarthri­tis, which is pri­mar­ily as­so­ci­ated with wear and tear of a joint or a joint in­jury, rheuma­toid arthri­tis is con­sid­ered an au­toim­mune dis­ease. That means your im­mune sys­tem at­tacks parts of your body. In the case of rheuma­toid arthri­tis, your im­mune sys­tem pri­mar­ily at­tacks joint lin­ings (syn­ovial mem­branes), which are sup­posed to pro­tect and lu­bri­cate your joints. When your im­mune sys­tem at­tacks your syn­ovial mem­branes, they be­come in­flamed, caus­ing your joints to feel warm, painful and swollen, or to be­come stiff – par­tic­u­larly in the morn­ing. If in­flam­ma­tion per­sists, cer­tain chem­i­cals and en­zymes may be re­leased that be­gin to eat away at car­ti­lage and bone, and cause dam­age to ten­dons and lig­a­ments around the joint. Over time, mus­cles sur­round­ing the joint may be­come weak, and the joint may even­tu­ally be de­stroyed. Rheuma­toid arthri­tis usu­ally af­fects cor­re­spond­ing joints on both sides of the body, of­ten start­ing with the small joints of the hands, wrists and feet. The dis­ease can come on sud­denly or grad­u­ally. In ad­di­tion to joint dis­com­fort, you may also have a gen­eral feel­ing of mus­cle aching and fa­tigue. Flare-ups may oc­cur un­pre­dictably. Beyond your joints, the im­mune re­ac­tion that causes rheuma­toid arthri­tis can also cause in­flam­ma­tion in other parts of the body, such as your heart, lungs, nerves, blood ves­sels and tear or sali­vary glands.

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