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What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a group of conditions that affect the health of the bone joints in the body. One in three adult Americans suffer from some form of arthritis and the disease affects about twice as many women as men. Arthritis involves inflammation of one or more joints and the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage normally protects the joint, allowing for smooth movement. Cartilage
also absorbs shock when pressure is placed on the joint, like when you walk or otherwise bear weight. Without the usual amount of cartilage, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Arthritic joints can be sensitive to weather changes. The increased sensitivity is thought to be caused by the affected joints developing extra nerve endings in an attempt to protect the joint from further damage. Arthritic diseases include rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, which are autoimmune diseases; septic arthritis, caused by joint infection; and the more common osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease. Arthritis can be caused from strains and injuries caused by repetitive motion, sports, overexertion, and falls. Unlike the autoimmune diseases, osteoarthritis largely affects older people and results from the degeneration of joint cartilage. Other forms are discussed below.
Arthritis is a frequent component of complex diseases that may involve more than 100 identifiable disorders. If the feet seem more susceptible to arthritis than other parts of the body, it is because each foot has 33 joints that can be afflicted, and there is no way to avoid the pain of the tremendous weight-bearing load on the feet. Arthritis is a disabling and occasionally crippling disease; it afflicts almost 40 million Americans. In some forms, it appears to have hereditary tendencies. While the prevalence of arthritis increases with age, all people from infancy to middle age are potential victims. People over 50 are the primary targets. Arthritic feet can result in loss of mobility and independence, but that may be avoided with early diagnosis and proper medical care. Joints are held together by a joint capsule that is designed to allow smooth movement between adjacent bones. In the type of joint that is commonly affected by arthritic diseases (the highly movable joints), the bone ends are covered by articular cartilage over which the joint moves. A synovial membrane encloses the joint space itself. This thin membrane secretes synovial fluid that lubricates the space between the cartilage-covered, joint-forming bones. The cartilage contains no blood vessels or nerves and receives its nutrients by diffusion from the synovial fluid and from the bone. Joint function depends on the health of the cartilage in the joint and the synovial membrane. Cartilage is a gel-like substance that acts as a shock absorber, essential for smooth and easy movement in the joint. Cartilage gets its elasticity from collagen fibers and its sponge-like quality from water, held together by a structure of big molecules called proteoglycans. Special cells (called chondrocytes) in the cartilage produce collagen and proteoglycans (Fassbender 1987). Joints can withstand enormous pressure by slowly releasing water from the cartilage.
Inflammation, a natural part of the body's response to injury and infection, is a complex process that produces swelling, pain, warmth and redness. But inflammation is not only a response to injury, it may perpetuate injury as well. Significant problems arise when inflammation is persistent, intense or recurrent or spreads to other areas of the body. Joints and the surrounding areas become inflamed for a number of reasons, including trauma, disease, infection or merely wear and tear, which naturally occurs over time. Many forms of arthritis are thought to result from the uncontrolled inflammation of an autoimmune disease, in which the body's defense mechanism malfunctions and attacks its own tissues. At other times, the joint area becomes inflamed and tender for no apparent reason. When joints become arthritic, swelling causes stiffness, rigidity and tissue damage. Pain, which is the body's signal that something is wrong, occurs as the joint is moved to the brink of its own limits. As mobility decreases, the muscles surrounding the joint also weaken, allowing for further injury to the joint. Over time, the cartilage breaks down, the bone erodes and the joints become misshapen. It is this process, regardless of the source, that may develop in the worst forms of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is frequently called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. Although it can be brought on suddenly by an injury, its onset is generally gradual; aging brings on a breakdown in cartilage, and pain gets progressively more severe, although it can be relieved with rest. Dull, throbbing nighttime pain is characteristic, and it may be accompanied by muscle weakness or deterioration. Walking may become erratic. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of degenerative joint disease. The condition usually affects the feet, knees, hips and fingers, though not all at once. It usually begins after the age of 60 and progresses slowly. Starting with joint pain, the condition progresses and the joint becomes enlarged, limiting movement. As the cartilage breaks down it leaves the bones exposed to grind against each other. This further irritates the joint, causing it to become inflamed. The condition begins with excessive or unusual wear on the joint from being overweight, poor posture, repetitive strain from work, injury, sports injury or a combination of these factors. It is a particular problem for the feet when people are overweight, simply because there are so many joints in each foot. The additional weight contributes to the deterioration of cartilage and the development of bone spurs.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a major crippling disorder, and perhaps the most serious form of arthritis. It is a complex, chronic inflammatory system of diseases, often affecting more than a dozen smaller joints during the course of the disease, frequently in a symmetrical pattern—both ankles, or the index fingers of both hands, for example. It is often accompanied by signs and symptoms - lengthy morning stiffness, fatigue, and weight loss - and it may affect various systems of the body, such as the eyes, lungs, heart, and nervous system. Women are three or four times more likely than men to suffer rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis has a much more acute onset than osteoarthritis. It is characterized by alternating periods of remission, during which symptoms disappear, and exacerbation, marked by the return of inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Serious joint deformity and loss of motion frequently result from acute rheumatoid arthritis. However, the disease system has been known to be active for months, or years, then abate, sometimes permanently. Rheumatoid arthritis affects not only the joints but can affect the lungs, heart, and eyes. It is marked by painful flare-ups that are long-lasting and frequent. As in osteoarthritis, the cartilage is affected first, breaking down and leaving the bones to rub together. As the condition progresses, the ligaments, muscles and bones also break down. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect many joints at a time, causing stiffness and pain all over. Striking most people between the ages of 20 and 50, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic problem resulting in progressive joint destruction, deformity and disability.
Gout is a painful condition that occurs when the body cannot eliminate a natural substance called uric acid. The excess uric acid forms needle-like crystals in the joints that cause swelling and severe pain. Gout most often affects the big toe, knee and wrist joints. Gout (gouty arthritis) is a condition caused by a buildup of the salts of uric acid - a normal byproduct of the diet - in the joints. A single big toe joint is commonly the affected area, possibly because it is subject to so much pressure in walking; attacks of gouty arthritis are extremely painful, perhaps more so than any other form of arthritis. Men are much more likely to be afflicted than women, an indication that heredity may play a role in the disease. While a rich diet that contains lots of red meat, rich sauces, shellfish, and brandy is popularly associated with gout, there are other protein compounds in foods such as lentils and beans that may play a role.
More information on arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Reiter's syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, gout)
What is arthritis? - Arthritis is a group of conditions that affect the health of the bone joints in the body. Arthritis is painful inflammation of a joint or joints of the body.
What types of arthritis are there? - Types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, gout, infectious arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus.
What causes arthritis? - The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. The cause of arthritis may be an infection, injury, abnormality of the immune system, aging.
What're the risk factors for arthritis? - Risk factors for arthritis include age, gender, obesity, injury, ethnicity. The risk of developing arthritis increases with age.
What're the signs and symptoms of arthritis? - Different types of arthritis have different symptoms. Other arthritis symptoms include fatigue, fever, a rash and the signs of joint inflammation.
How is arthritis diagnosed? - The diagnosis of arthritis is based on the pattern of symptoms, medical history, family history, physical examination, X-rays and lab tests.
What's the treatment for arthritis? - The objectives in the treatment of arthritis are controlling inflammation, preserving joint function, and curing the disease if that is possible.
Arthritis supplements - Natural arthritis supplements can help restore cartilage and glutathione depletion, reduce joint inflammation, and offer potential relief and rejuvenation without negative side effects.
Therapies for arthritis pain relief - Short-term relief for arthritis pain and inflammation may include pain relievers. NSAIDs are used to reduce pain and inflammation.
What natural therapies are available to cure arthritis? - Natural therapies for arthritis pain relief include glucosamine, chondroitin sulfates, nettle leaf, S-adenosylmethionine, and exrutine.
What can be done to prevent arthritis? - Consumption of green tea may prevent arthritis damage and benefit the arthritis patient by reducing inflammation and slowing cartilage breakdown.
What is the Arthritis Foundation? - The Arthritis Foundation is the only nationwide, nonprofit health organization helping take greater control of arthritis in the United States.
What is osteoarthritis? - Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as arthrosis or degenerative joint disease, is a disease featuring pain and impaired function of the joints.
What causes osteoarthritis? - Primary osteoarthritis is mostly related to aging. Osteoarthritis results from a combination of genetic predisposition and joint injuries.
What're the risk factors for osteoarthritis? - Risk factors for osteoarthritis are congenital hip luxation, obesity, osteoporosis, and inflammatory diseases.
What're the complications of osteoarthritis? - The major complication of osteoarthritis is pain. The degree of pain can vary greatly. Osteoarthritis itself is not life threatening.
What are symptoms of osteoarthritis? - The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are is pain that worsens during activity and that gets better during rest.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed? - The doctor makes the diagnosis of osteoarthritis based on the characteristic symptoms, physical examination, and the x-ray appearance of joints.
What's the treatment for osteoarthritis? - Osteoarthritis is treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Severe pain in specific joints can be treated with local injections with lidocaine.
What're the medications for osteoarthritis? - Acetaminophen is used for mild to moderate osteoarthritis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or COX-2 medications for moderate to severe arthritic pain.
What nutritional supplements cure osteoarthritis? - A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is used as a dietary supplement to cure osteoarthritis. Vitamin D and calcium are recommended for strong bones.
Treatments for osteoarthritis pain relief - OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin are familiar choices for the treatment of osteoarthritis pain relief.
What osteoarthritis exercise is suggested? - Regular exercise is very important for successful control of osteoarthritis. Exercise helps patients ostearthritis in the hip or in the knee.
Can osteoarthritis be prevented? - Obese people are at risk of osteoarthritis and that weight loss can help prevent or delay osteoarthritis from occurring.
What is osteoarthritis of the hip? - Osteoarthritis of the hip can cause insidious pain in the groin or inguinal region and, on occasion, pain in the side of the buttock or upper thigh.
What is rheumatoid arthritis? - Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that marked by stiffness and inflammation of the joints, weakness, loss of mobility, and deformity.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis? - The cause of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is unknown. Rheumatoid arthritis involves an attack on the body by its own immune cells (auto-immune disease).
What're the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis? - The symptoms that distinguish rheumatoid arthritis are inflammation and soft-tissue swelling of many joints at the same time (polyarthritis).
How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed? - Health professionals diagnose rheumatoid arthritis by examining joints and evaluating ymptoms, medical history, and results of several tests.
What's the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis? - The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis includes the use of non-drug treatment such as rest and physiotherapy, drugs may be required both to control symptoms of the disease.
What rheumatoid arthritis medications are available? - Rheumatoid arthritis medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, injectable gold salts, plaquenil or hydroxychloroquine.
What rheumatoid arthritis diet is suggested? - Certain vitamin supplements may be beneficial. Many herbs also are useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
What is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis? - Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a form of arthritis in children ages 16 or younger that causes inflammation and stiffness of joints for more than six weeks.
What causes juvenile rheumatoid arthritis? - Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is considered to be a multifactorial condition.
What're the symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis? - Symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may appear during episodes (flare-ups) or may be chronic and continuous.
How is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed? - Diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is often made on the basis of the child's collection of symptoms.
What're the treatments for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis? - The treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis centers on decreasing joint inflammation, suppressing pain, and preserving movement.
What is septic arthritis (infectious arthritis)? - Septic arthritis, also known as infectious arthritis or pyogenic arthritis, is an infection in the joint (synovial) fluid and joint tissues.
What causes septic arthritis? - Septic arthritis develops when bacteria spread from a source of infection through the bloodstream to a joint or the joint is directly infected by traumatic penetration.
What're the symptoms of septic arthritis? - The symptoms of septic arthritis (infectious arthritis) include swelling in the infected joint and pain when the joint is moved.
How is septic arthritis diagnosed? - The diagnosis of infectious arthritis depends on a combination of laboratory testing with careful history-taking and physical examination of the affected joint.
What is the treatment for septic arthritis? - The goal of treatment for septic arthritis is to eliminate the infection with antibiotic therapy. Septic arthritis requires immediate treatment.
What is psoriatic arthritis? - Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints that occurs in some people with a chronic skin and nail condition known as psoriasis.
What causes psoriatic arthritis? - The cause of psoriatic arthritis is unknown. Psoriatic is triggered by an attack of the body's own immune system on itself.
What're the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis? - Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include dry, scaly, silver patches of skin combined with joint pain and destructive changes in the feet, hands, knees, and spine
How is psoriatic arthritis diagnosed? - The diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is made by identifying the typical symptoms of arthritis in a person with psoriasis.
What's the treatment for psoriatic arthritis? - Treatment of psoriatic arthritis focuses on controlling the skin rash and relieving joint inflammation.
What is Reiter's syndrome (reactive arthritis)? - Reiter's syndrome (reactive arthritis) is a group of symptoms consisting of arthritis, urethritis, conjunctivitis, and lesions of the skin.
What causes Reiter's syndrome (reactive arthritis)? - Reiter's syndrome appears to be a reaction to an infection that begins in an area of the body other than the joints.
What're the symptoms of Reiter's syndrome? - The symptoms of of Reiter's syndrome appear within days or weeks of infection followed by a low-grade fever, conjunctivitis.
How is Reiter's syndrome diagnosed? - Diagnosis of Reiter's syndrome is often difficult because there is no specific test to confirm that a person has reactive arthritis.
What's the treatment for Reiter's syndrome? - The objective of treatment for Reiter's syndrome is to alleviate the symptoms associated with the syndrome and to treat any underlying infection.
What is ankylosing spondylitis? - Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints between the vertebrae of the spine, and the joints between the spine and the pelvis.
What causes ankylosing spondylitis? - The specific cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown, but the disease tends to run in families, indicating that genetics plays a role.
What're the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis? - Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include back pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia.
How is ankylosing spondylitis diagnosed? - Doctors usually diagnose ankylosing spondylitis simply by the patient's report of pain and stiffness.
What's the treatment for ankylosing spondylitis? - Physical therapy for ankylosing spondylitis can provide a number of benefits, from pain relief to improved physical strength and flexibility.
What is gout (gouty arthritis)? - Gout or gouty arthritis is a form of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals (due to hyperuricemia) in joints.
What causes gout (gouty arthritis)? - Gout is caused by a defect in metabolism which results in an overproduction of uric acid or leads to reduced ability of the kidney to eliminate uric acid.
What are the risk factors for gout? - Risk factors for gout (gouty arthritis) include genetics, age, gender, alcohol use, obesity, medications, and medical conditions.
What're the complications of gout? - Gout often accompanies heart problems, including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and congestive heart failure.
What are the symptoms of gout (gouty arthritis)? - An attack of chronic gout is similar to an attack of acute gouty arthritis. The affected joints show signs of warmth, redness, and tenderness.
How is gout diagnosed? - The diagnosis of gout is generally made on a clinical basis. Physicians can diagnose gout based on the physical examination and medical history.
What's the treatment for gout (gouty arthritis)? - The goals of treatment for gout consist of alleviating pain, avoiding severe attacks in the future, and preventing long-term joint damage.
What gout medications are available? - Gout medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, corticosteroids, xanthine oxidase inhibitors, uricosuric agents.
What gout diet is suggested? - The principle of a gout diet is to reduce purines or lower uric acid when we take food. Avoid foods high in purines. Alcohol should be avoided.
How to prevent gout (gouty arthritis)? - Prevention is the best defense against gout (gouty arthritis). Losing weight and limiting alcohol intake can help ward off gout.