What is Arthritis?

The term ‘Arthritis’ a Greek term which means ‘diseases of the joints’. As the name suggests, arthritis is not just the name of one particular disease rather it is a broad terminology that covers a group of around 100 diseases. These diseases have everything to do with our joints, the places where two or more bones connect, such as- fingers, wrists, knees, hips, etc.

Arthritis causes a physical discomfort where two or more bones meet, ranging from mild to disabling. Joints provide support and help us move, thus, any kind of damage to the joints from disease or injury can interfere in our movement and cause a lot of pain.

In our country, every tenth person is suffering from some of the other types of arthritis. If we the maths, more than 180 million people are suffering from arthritis in India, & the main reason being an unhealthy lifestyle, improper diet & lack of physical activities of people.

Types of Arthritis:

Arthritis is a problem related to the inflammation of joints. As mentioned earlier there are around 100 types of arthritis but some of the most common types include:

  1. Osteoarthritis: It is one of the most common forms of arthritis found all around the world. In Osteoarthritis, the cartilages, which act as a protective cushion between the bones wear off or are broken down, due to which the friction is caused between the bones which thereby causes pain & discomfort in movement. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint but is most commonly caused in knees, hips, spine & hands. The problem of osteoarthritis gets worsen with time & age. The damages caused to the joints due to osteoarthritis cannot be reversed but we can reduce the chances of any future damages by inculcating the habit of active life, healthy diet, healthy weight & proper medications.
  1. Rheumatoid Arthritis: It is an autoimmune disease that is caused when our body produces autoantibodies instead of antibodies. These autoantibodies tend to target joints & thereby cause Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused in both the sides of a body, i.e. if we are witnessing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the joints of the right hand in our body, then we will probably develop those symptoms on the joints of left hand too. Rheumatoid arthritis is best treated when diagnosed early. If any symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis are noticed, one should seek medical help as early as possible as this type of arthritis causes major damage to the body of a person. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but it can be managed with the help of medical treatments.
  1. Fibromyalgia: It is a disorder that causes musculoskeletal pain along with fatigue, sleeping disorders, memory loss & mood swings. It affects the way our brain processes pain signals in our bodies. It is caused due to various reasons such as- stress, physical trauma, surgery, etc. Researchers say that symptoms of Fibromyalgia are developed gradually, they are not triggered due to any single event. There are no cures for this type of arthritis but with the help of medical supervision & treatments, its adversity can be managed.
  1. Gout: It is a very complex type of arthritis that can affect anyone irrespective of their age or gender. It is caused when there is a deposition of needle-like crystals of uric acid in a joint. Its symptoms include- redness, swollen joints, formations of tophi, etc. It can only be treated with the help of medications that reduce the level of uric acid in the body. If Gout is left untreated it can cause severe damage to joints & can also lead to kidney problems & tophi.

Causes of Arthritis:

Well, there is no single cause for all types of arthritis. The causes of arthritis change according to its type. For example, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that is caused when our body produces autoantibodies instead of antibodies. Whereas, Osteoarthritis is caused when the cartilage between the two bones breaks down, causing the bones to rub together.

Most types of arthritis are caused by a combination of reasons but sometimes it also occurs without any obvious reasons. Certain risk factors increase the chances of a person being affected by arthritis. Some of these are mentioned below-

  • Family History: Certain types of arthritis runs from one generation to another. So if the parents have arthritis, their children are likely to have it too. Genes of a person can make him more susceptible to the environment that may trigger arthritis.
  • Age: The risk of certain types of arthritis increases with age, such as Osteoarthritis, which is caused due to breakage of cartilages which is likely to happen more with the increasing age.
  • Sex: There are certain types of arthritis which are more common in a specific gender. For example, women are more likely to have Rheumatoid arthritis, whereas men are more likely to be affected by gout arthritis than women.
  • Injury or Illness: People who have suffered from a joint injury in past, probably while playing a sport or in an accident, are more likely to suffer from arthritis in there later phase of life.
  • Immunity System Dysfunction: Sometimes our body by mistake produces autoantibodies instead of antibodies, which target healthy cells instead of pathogens. These autoantibodies when target joints, it causes a specific type of arthritis called Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Obesity: An obese person is more likely to suffer from arthritis as carrying excess amount of weight puts a lot of stress on joints, especially on the spine, hips & knees which thereby causes the problem of arthritis.
  • Smoking: Smoking not only causes disease but also accelerates the progression of symptoms severely. The person who smokes is more likely to arthritis symptoms is three times more likely to test positive of arthritis than its non-smoker counterpart.

When to see a Doctor..?

In this era of hectic schedules & unhealthy lifestyle, it is very common to experience pain & aches in joints & muscles every now & then, especially when we get involved in certain unusual or strenuous physical activities which we are not prepared for. For example, playing sports without warming up, lifting weight, etc.

But then the conflict occurs when we don’t know how to differentiate between normal pain or stiffness & early signs of arthritis. Or in other words, when to see Doctor..?

Well, the simple answer to this complicated question is self-assessment. You have to see whether the swelling or stiffness is caused due to any unusual strenuous activity or have just happened without any physical strain or solid reason. And if the swelling or stiffness doesn’t go away in a few days or becomes painful to touch, then it is the time to consult a doctor. As, if the problem is diagnosed early, then it can be treated well & is easily cured. So be mindful & consult a good orthopedic doctor if any symptom of arthritis occurs.

Early signs & symptoms of Arthritis:

Generally speaking, the early symptoms of any disease are very vague & hard to realize. But this is not the case in arthritis. Most patients of arthritis feel pain, swelling, stiffness, etc. for a certain period of time & then the pain, swelling, etc. goes away for a while but then comes again & again after certain gaps. Symptoms of arthritis differ from person to person, some may have very mild symptoms & some sever. Some of the common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Early morning joint stiffness, that can last up to 30 minutes or more.
  • Tiredness of knees
  • Pain, stiffness, or swelling in joints.
  • Redness around the affected joints.
  • Fatigue or a general feeling of being unwell.
  • Mild fever or night sweats
  • Decreased range of motions.
  • Deformities of joints, such as- knock knees, bow legs, etc.