Arthritis is an enormous cause of disability and is a pervasive debilitating condition. Arthritis is an umbrella term that involves many different types. 1 in 5 adults in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Many people’s lives can be hugely adversely affected by this chronic condition, that requires careful management for life.
The symptoms of arthritis can be hugely varied and wide-ranging but involve some similarities. Many arthritic conditions involve pain in the joints frequently associated with aching and stiffness, inflammation and sometimes a reduced movement. Additionally there may be redness and heat generated at the pain site. In some arthritic chronic conditions the other organs are implicated, for example the skin in psoriatic arthritis, or the eye, or the heart.
Many chronic arthritic conditions are auto-immune, occurring as a result of a fault or over-activity in the body’s own defence system. Arthritis is more common in the female population and affects all ages, with two-thirds of sufferers in fact being under the age of 65. However, because osteo-arthritis is the most common form of arthritis, this accounts for the increased number of cases in the older population.
It should also be noted that arthritic conditions tend to co-exist with other chronic diseases such as Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Hypertension.
Arthritis is a catch-all term that includes over 100 different individual rheumatic diseases. For a detailed list of the myriad of individual types of arthritis see here (link: http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/). The most common form of arthritis is osteo-arthritis, and other common arthritic and rheumatic conditions include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia and Gout.
Osteo-Arthritis: Osteo-Arthritis is the most common form of arthritis and causes wear and tear on the joints causing damage to the cartilage, ultimately causing a restricted movement. Osteo-arthritis, particularly in a specific area, can be sped up by an injury to the affected site, or an infection.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: is the second most common form of arthritis and is a lifelong chronic condition. Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joints, which in turn makes the synovial membranes inflamed and swollen. This results in damage to the cartilage and the bone.
Other forms of arthritis include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Infectious Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis and Raynaud’s Phenomenon…but there are a whole host of different forms.
Arthritis is often diagnosed following elimination of other conditions. Rheumatologists are often left with a complex set of symptoms to investigate. They will use a combination of tests (such as blood, urine and joint fluid tests) as well as imaging (such as MRI, x-ray and CT) to determine the type of arthritis and the damage caused.
Arthritis, in its many forms, has various different associated risks. However, unlike other chronic conditions, these are not necessarily as easy to quantify. Nonetheless, the main risk factors for developing arthritic conditions include:
Age: Certainly for Osteo-Arthritis, risk increases with age.
Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop arthritic conditions.
Family History: Certain forms of arthritis are known to have a genetic element and as such having a close relative with an arthritic condition can increase your own risk. The type of arthritis conditions affected by genetic conditions vary, but researchers are identifying specific genetic code that is associated with an increased risk.
Previous Injury: Old injuries are often the focal site for arthritic conditions, particularly ones associated with wear and tear such as Osteo-arthritis.
Obesity: Significant obesity puts additional pressure on the joints thereby causing them problems and worsening arthritic conditions.
The aim with arthritis is lifelong management and pain reduction. Sufferers of arthritic conditions are likely to do live with their disease for many years, frequently several decades. Therefore, taking a holistic approach to management of arthritis as a chronic disease is essential for long-term quality of life.
Lifestyle: There are various lifestyle modifications and changes that can be embraced to improve the quality of life for someone with an arthritic chronic condition. The single biggest lifestyle difference, if relevant, is to bring your weight down in to the healthy range for your height, and to maintain your weight at that level. This will reduce the pressure on joints and reduce long term pain. Additionally, another lifestyle change is to gradually increase your physical activity. Research has shown that physical activity helps to reduce pain, keep your joints mobile for as long as possible, and also protect your overall health and physical and mental wellbeing.
Medication: Depending on your type of arthritis and how the condition affects you it may be necessary to use medication such as analgesics (pain killers), Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s), Counterirritants; Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARD’s), biologic response modifiers and corticosteroids.
Physical Therapy: Physical Therapy can help you to maintain and regain strength and range of movement, enabling you to keep active. They may use techniques such as massage, ultrasound or hydrotherapy to help manage your condition.
Surgery: Surgery may be used in some instances for joint repair, joint replacements, or joint fusion, all different ways of managing the effects of arthritis.
At WizeLife we believe in bringing health information, tailored specifically to you, to your inbox via a simple, easy, online assessment. Compiled by medical experts using a plethora of the most up to date medical studies, we can assess your risk factors for chronic diseases such as Arthritis. However, knowledge is power, and so we go beyond this. We actively give you information and advice based on your known health risks compared to a perfectly healthy virtual patient, and advise you on what you can do to target elevated risks and reduce them in line with an ideal health basis, making you healthier and less at-risk. For tips on managing and reducing the risks associated with Arthritis, take our 7-minute test now.