Arthritis means joint inflammation and is a general term used to describe around 200 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues surrounding the joints, and other connective tissue. It is characterized by aches, pains, swelling and stiffness in and around joints, especially the knee, elbow and shoulder joints.
What causes arthritis?
Some of the potential causes of arthritis include:
Injury that leads to degenerative arthritis
Abnormal metabolism that leads to gout and pseudogout
Genetic (i.e. via family), such as in case of osteoarthritis
Infections, such as in case of arthritis of Lyme disease
Overactive immune system
How prevalent is arthritis in India?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 17% of India’s population suffers from some form of arthritis. In fact, the epidemic of pain is possibly the biggest health problem India faces today – much more than the combined burden of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
What are the most common symptoms of arthritis?
The four most common symptoms of arthritis are pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty moving a joint.
How can arthritis affect a person’s daily life?
Arthritis can prevent a person from performing normal activities, and can adversely affect a person’s daily life in many ways, such as:
It can prevent a person from stooping, bending, kneeling or walking properly
It can prevent a person from working and earning to their full potential
It can disable a person completely
It can severely impact a person’s emotional health via depression and psychological distress
How is arthritis diagnosed?
Arthritis is generally diagnosed via physical examination of the body, blood test and imaging scans like X-ray, CT scans and MRI.
How is arthritis treated?
You may have to try different treatments, or a combination of treatments before knowing what works best for you. Treatments can include lifestyle changes via exercise, physical therapy, correct posture, yoga, eating a healthy diet comprising lots of fruits and vegetables, weight control – as well as medicines and surgery.
Can arthritis be cured?
To answer that question, one needs to take into account the type of arthritis. For example, there are several types of arthritis like Lyme disease and bacterial arthritis which are caused by infection and can be cured by antibiotics. Arthritis by a virus like Parvovirus, usually runs its course without any treatment. Gout is a type of arthritis that can be put into remission by lowering the uric acid enough which can be done by taking medications and avoiding foods like red meat, beer, liquor and high fructose corn syrup. If the patient goes off their diet or stops taking medication, the arthritis will return. There’s no permanent cure for arthritis but it gradually becomes less aggressive and symptoms may even improve by early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Home remedies to cure arthritis
1. Lose weight and get more exercise
Extra weight puts more pressure on the joints, especially knees, hips and feet. Reducing the stress on the joints by losing weight will improve mobility, decrease pain, maintain flexibility and prevent future damage to the joints. One should only try low-impact exercises such as water aerobics or swimming to flex the joints without adding further stress.
2. Use hot and cold therapy
Long, warm showers or baths help ease stiffness in joints. Use an electric blanket or moist heating pad at night to keep joints loose. Cold therapy helps in relieving joint pain, swelling and inflammation. Wrap an ice pack and apply it to painful joints for quick relief.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body which reroutes energy and restores balance in the body. It has the ability to reduce arthritis pain.
Meditation and relaxation techniques may help in reducing pain from arthritis by reducing stress and enabling one to cope with it better.
5. Include the right fatty acids in diet
Fish oil supplements, which are high in omega-3s, help in reducing joint stiffness and pain. Gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA is found in the seeds of certain plants such as evening primrose, borage, hemp, and black currants which can be used as a supplement.
6. Add turmeric to dishes
Turmeric contains curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce arthritis pain.
7. Get a massage
According to the Arthritis Foundation, regular massaging of arthritic joints can help reduce pain and stiffness and improve the range of motion.
8. Herbal supplements
Herbal supplements like boswellia, bromelain, devil’s claw, ginkgo, stinging nettle and thunder god vine also help in reducing joint pain. However, before starting any new supplement or exercise, one must always consult their doctor.
Symptoms of arthritis
Following is a detailed account of how and where arthritis affects the most:
Pain areas: in the joints, ankle, back, fingers, hands, muscles, neck, or wrist
Pain types: can be intermittent or sharp
Pain circumstances: can occur when the body is at rest like sitting or sleeping
Joints: stiffness, tenderness, or swelling
Muscles: decreased range of motion, difficulty in walking, muscle weakness
Hand: bump on the finger or bony outgrowth in fingers or toes
Whole body: fatigue or malaise
Also common: flared symptoms, stiff neck, physical deformity, or redness
Types of arthritis
There are more than 100 types of arthritis. Let’s analyse a few of the common ones:
1. Osteoarthritis- This is the most common type of arthritis found in people. It’s the wear and tear that happens when the joints are overused. It usually happens with age, but it can also come from joint injuries or obesity, which puts extra stress on joints.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis- RA is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks parts of the body, especially the joints. That leads to inflammation, which can cause severe joint damage if left untreated. People who have rheumatoid arthritis may also get lumps called rheumatoid nodules on knuckles, elbows, or heels.
3. Psoriatic Arthritis– People with this condition have inflammation of the skin (psoriasis) and joints (arthritis). Psoriasis causes patchy, raised, red and white areas of inflamed skin with scales on the tips of the elbows and knees, the scalp, the navel, and skin around the genital areas.
4. Gout- It is a buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint. Most of the time, it’s the big toe or another part of the foot.
5. Lupus– Lupus is also called SLE or systemic lupus erythematosus. It is an autoimmune disease which affects joints and many organs in the body.
6. Juvenile arthritis– JA is an umbrella term for several types of arthritis that affect children younger than 16 years old. The most common type is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), which is a group of autoimmune disorders that can impact children’s joints. It causes the muscle and soft tissue to tighten, bones to erode, growth patterns to change and joints to misalign.
7. Spondyloarthropathies– Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an autoimmune condition that attacks the locations where tendons and ligaments attach to the bone. Symptoms include pain and stiffness, especially in the lower back. It usually affects the spine and pelvis but can also affect other joints in the body. Other spondyloarthropathies can attack peripheral joints, such as those in hands and feet.
8. Infectious and reactive arthritis– Infectious arthritis is an infection in one of the joints that causes pain or swelling caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. It can start in another part of the body and spread to the joints and is often accompanied by fever and chills. Reactive arthritis can occur when an infection in one part of the body triggers immune system dysfunction and inflammation in a joint elsewhere in the body. The infection often occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, bladder, or sexual organs.
9. Other conditions and joint pain-
Fibromyalgia Syndrome- A Condition in which the brain processes pain in muscles and joints in a way that amplifies the perception of the pain
Scleroderma- An autoimmune condition in which inflammation and hardening in the skin connective tissues can lead to organ damage and joint pain
What other valuable information can you share with us about arthritis? Do let us know-we’d love to hear from you!
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