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Almost everyone has heard of arthritis at one time or another. It is commonly thought of as a condition that affects only elderly people and causes joint pain. However, this is only a small part of what arthritis actually entails. For many who have arthritis, they often wish that the condition were as simple as joint pain, but it is far more complex. (I have several family members that suffer with arthritis). When I explain the full extent of arthritis to people, they are often surprised and comment that they had no idea how serious it could be. What is Arthritis? At the word’s core, Arthron (Greek) means joint and itis (Greek) means inflammation. In short, arthritis is a condition that results inflammation in one or more joints. These are the points where bones connect and move. Arthritis is sometimes misunderstood as a standalone disease, but it is actually a joint condition with many possible causes. Arthritis can be categorized into two primary types: noninflammatory arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, and inflammatory arthritis, which is typically associated with a rheumatological condition. The primary symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be present continuously or intermittently. Arthritis is commonly associated with aging and the natural wear and tear of joints. This is not usually the main cause. Arthritis can be caused by a range of factors and we will go into more detail about this below. Who Does It Affect? In reality, arthritis affects a significant portion of the population. One in four people living with some form of the condition. The prevalence of arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions is often underestimated because they are invisible to the naked eye. It is possible that you or someone you know has arthritis without even realizing it. Globally, this equates to a staggering 350 million or more people Approximately 59,000 people in the US affected Arthritis can even impact children, with 300,000 children in the US diagnosed, some as young as a few months old It is essential to diagnose and treat arthritis because if left untreated, it can lead to permanent joint damage and deformities. In some cases, certain types of arthritis can be life-threatening if organs become involved. Moreover, some arthritis types and medications used to treat them can weaken the immune system. This makes it challenging to recover from illnesses and injuries, thus increasing the risk of heart disease, lung disease, obesity, diabetes, and specific cancers. Almost half of the US population with arthritis also suffer from heart disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, and some forms have inadequate treatments. The treatment and lost wages of arthritis cost some countries hundreds of billions each year. Types of Arthritis It is believed by experts that arthritis can have almost a hundred different causes. Research is continually uncovering more information about them. The following are some of the most frequent forms of arthritis: Osteoarthritis Degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It affects approximately 80% of adults aged 55 or older. While it is more common in older adults this is due to it being a degenerative condition. You can be diagnosed with this condition when you are younger. It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, which is why it is also known as wear-and-tear arthritis. Cartilage is a cushion on the ends of our bones that allows them to move smoothly and without friction. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints has worn down, and the bones rub against each other painfully. While cartilage itself is not sensitive to pain, the nerves in the bones beneath it can cause joint pain. Sports injuries or other injuries to joints that damage cartilage, and repetitive movements in work or daily activities that put pressure on joints can all cause osteoarthritis. Although it can affect many different joints in the body, it commonly occurs in joints that are frequently used, such as the hands, wrists, shoulders, knees, or feet. Osteoarthritis may also differ for each individual due to this reason. Primary care physicians, orthopedic specialists, and physical therapists can all provide treatment for osteoarthritis. This may include medication, cortisone injections, physical therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery. Psoriatic Arthritis Psoriatic arthritis is linked to psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that results in painful red patches with a scaly top layer. Most people will experience the skin symptoms of psoriasis before developing psoriatic arthritis. This leads to joint pain, swelling and stiffness like other arthritis conditions. Although there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, people generally experience periods of flare-ups and remission. Typically, a rheumatologist treats psoriatic arthritis through a combination of medication, and physical and occupational therapies. It is important to continue seeking care with a rheumatologist and often a dermatologist to prevent debilitating symptoms if left untreated. Gout Gout is a health condition that occurs due to an excess of uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid is produced as a byproduct when the body breaks down purines. Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood and gets eliminated from the body through urine. However, consuming foods high in purines can lead to the accumulation of urate crystals in the joints. This may cause intense pain and swelling. Obese individuals, people on diuretics, and those with poor kidney function are at a higher risk of developing uric acid crystal deposition and gout. Gout flare-ups are known to occur suddenly. Treatment for gout usually involves medication and may be overseen by a rheumatologist who can help prevent future gout attacks. Rheumatoid Arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is classified as an autoimmune rheumatic disease. This category of diseases involves the immune system mistakenly attacking and causing damage to the body’s own healthy joint tissues. This results in pain, swelling, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the hands, wrists, and knees, which can make simple tasks, like writing or climbing stairs, challenging. If the disease goes untreated, it can lead to damage in other organs and systems of the body, such as the heart, lungs, and eyes. To manage rheumatoid arthritis, it’s crucial to consult with a rheumatology specialist. They can provide a proper diagnosis, design an individualized treatment plan, and help improve symptoms and protect long-term health. Juvenile Arthritis Juvenile arthritis (JA), also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, is an umbrella term for several autoimmune or autoinflammatory diseases that affect children under the age of 16. Like rheumatoid arthritis, JA causes the immune system to release inflammatory chemicals that harm healthy tissues, including joints. Although JA may be a lifelong condition, it can go into remission or even resolve completely. Rheumatologists work with pediatricians to treat JA. This is done typically using a combination of medication, lifestyle adjustments, and sometimes complementary therapies such as acupuncture. Can Arthritis Be Passed Down? According to research and genetic studies, arthritis can be hereditary. This can be more common particularly if a close family member has osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is essential to understand that inheriting those genes does not guarantee the development of arthritis. Arthritis can also develop due to various other factors, including normal aging, repeated stress on a joint, unique anatomy, or other causes. To diagnose the condition and determine the most probable cause, your doctor will consider your medical history, symptoms, and any imaging or examination findings. What are the Long Term Affects of Arthritis? Arthritis doesn’t always persist as a chronic condition, but it is often the case. For instance, if arthritis results from an underlying disease that gets treated and resolved, the arthritis symptoms may subside as well. Regrettably, it is typically becomes a long-term condition. This causes necessitating ongoing treatments like medication and lifestyle changes, particularly with osteoarthritis, the most common form. When there is degeneration of cartilage due to wear and tear in joints, the cartilage cannot regenerate. However, age, weight, and previous joint injuries can influence the severity of the condition over time. The long-term effects of arthritis vary depending on the type or underlying cause. For moderate arthritis related to joint wear and tear, lifestyle modifications can be made to make daily activities more comfortable. For instance, if you have knee pain, you can walk instead of using the stair climber machine at the gym. Non-weight bearing exercises such as biking and water aerobics can help build supportive muscles. This can be done without exacerbating joint pain in weight-bearing joints such as hips, knees, ankles, and feet. However, if autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis are left untreated, serious health risks can occur, such as deformed joints, permanently injured joints, and damage to other organs and systems in the body. Therefore, it is essential to discuss any symptoms with your doctor and determine the underlying cause. How to Help Relieve Your Arthritis Pain The goal of treating arthritis is to alleviate symptoms and enhance joint function. It may be necessary to experiment with various treatments or a blend of treatments. Every person is different and it is not a one size fits all to determine the most effective approach. After consulting a doctor they may recommend the following: Physical therapy, steroid injections, surgery, regenerative medicine, medication (NSAIDS) or a combination. Innovative medical treatments falling under the field of regenerative medicine can benefit both major types of arthritis. This medical branch focuses on replacing, repairing, or regenerating damaged human tissue naturally. Regenerative medicine taps into your body’s inherent capacity for healing. Treatments utilize stem cells, platelets, and amniotic fluids that are rich in growth factors. These can be injected into arthritic joints to reduce inflammation and promote the development of new, healthier cells. Compared to surgical interventions, regenerative medicine offers longer-term pain relief and faster healing and recovery times. The procedures are relatively simple, quick, and have a low risk of infection or blood loss. Regenerative treatments work best on joints such as the elbows, knees, and shoulders. Think you might have arthritis? Talk to your doctor Occasional minor discomfort in our joints can be expected as we age. However, if you are consistently experiencing joint pain that is sudden or worsening over time, it would be advisable to consult with your physician. Thanks for taking the time to read todays post, 5 Quick Tips: What The Heck Is Arthritis Actually? Learn More About Alternative Ways to Alleviate Your Pain Get back to doing the things you love, faster & without surgery. Request an Appointment Today!