The term arthritis is used for any condition that affects joints, causing pain and stiffness in the affected joints.
There are two broad types, namely degenerative and inflammatory arthritis.
Degenerative arthritis, the more common type, is found in people over 45 years of age and occurs due to wear and tear in the joints. Symptoms are limited to the joints involved, in the form of pain on using the joint and relief with rest.
Although the cause for many types of arthritis is not known, it is thought to be due to a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. Smoking, obesity greatly increases the risk of developing various types of arthritis.
Pain, stiffness and swelling in joints are the most common symptoms. Symptoms can develop suddenly or gradually over time. Certain autoimmune conditions like lupus, apart from having joint pains as a symptom, can also have skin rashes, mouth ulcers, dry eyes and mouth, Raynaud’s, hair fall etc. Psoriatic arthritis can be associated with skin psoriasis.
Diagnosis is mostly by taking a history from the patient and doing a clinical examination. Certain blood tests help in confirming the diagnosis. X rays and sometimes MRI help in assessing the severity of arthritis.
The aim of treatment is to control pain, minimize joint damage and improve or maintain physical function. The drugs used to treat a rheumatoid type of arthritis are called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Apart from medications, exercise, patient education, and sometimes surgery also play a role.
The risk of developing certain types of arthritis can be reduced by avoiding smoking, avoiding being overweight and avoiding injuries. Regular physical activities, eating a healthy diet, avoiding stress are all beneficial.
If you have pain, swelling or stiffness in joints, muscles or spine, lasting more than 6 weeks. If you have symptoms like fever, rashes, weight loss, cough, shortness of breath, red eyes etc along with joint pains. If joint pains are not resolving with simple pain killers and you are having recurrent episodes of pain.
Does exercise help arthritis pain? Exercise should be a part of daily routine not just for patients with arthritis, but also to prevent it. It helps reduce pain and stiffness in joints, keeps joints flexible, prevents obesity, lifts your mood and reduces fatigue.
Although there is no permanent cure for most types, starting treatment early and taking it regularly will put arthritis into remission and patients can lead a normal life. The chances of being able to stop medications eventually would also be high.
Treatment would be successful only with the patient’s contribution to self-care. Being well educated about their arthritis, following their treatment regime, keeping their appointments, exercise and a positive attitude are all essential. Apart from being regular with medications, regular physical activity, healthy lifestyle, eating a balanced diet are absolutely essential to be able to lead a normal, healthy and productive life and win the battle against arthritis.
Rheumatologists are doctors specialised in treating rheumatic and autoimmune diseases. They see patients with various types of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory eye diseases like uveitis, scleritis, sarcoidosis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, fibromyalgia, lupus or SLE, scleroderma, myositis, vasculitis etc.