What is Arthritis? Arthritis is a joint disorder characterized by painful inflammation of one or more joints. There are over 100 different types of arthritis and all involve joint pain for one reason or another. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease. In cases of osteoarthritis, the cartilage surrounding a joint begins to breakdown causing the bones on either end of the joint to rub together. This results in painful inflammation and stiffness of the joint.
Another common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which can affect not only the joints, but other organs as well. RA affects both sides of the body equally and most commonly in the wrists, fingers, knees, feet and ankles. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurs in children as early as 6 months old and usually before the age of 16. Juvenile RA is divided into several types, systematic, polyarticular, and pauciarticular. Systematic JRA is the least common and involves bodywide joint swelling, pain, rash and fever. Polyarticular JRA involves many joints and may turn into rheumatoid arthritis. Pauciarticular JRA involves four or less joints and also affects the eyes. Gout is another common type of arthritis that usually causes painful burning and swelling in the big toe.
What causes arthritis?
There are over 100 different types of arthritis and not every type results from the same cause. Some causes may be temporary, resulting from environmental factors and some may be permanent, resulting from simple aging or illness. Some common temporary causes or arthritis are infection, broken bones, temporary illness and excess weight. If treated properly, arthritis caused by these factors may disappear. Osteoarthritis is the result of general wear and tear of the joints and is a common disease of the elderly. Rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are both the result of an autoimmune disorder that attacks body tissues such as joints and organs. Gout is the result of high levels of uric acid in the blood. When uric acid levels become too high the uric acid forms hard crystals in the joints that may cause painful inflammation and stiffness.
Common treatments for arthritis:
Just as there are many causes for the different types of arthritis, there are also many treatments depending on which type of arthritis a person is affected with. Many forms of temporary arthritis may be treated simply with a change in lifestyle such as losing weight, changing your diet and physical therapy. Other forms of arthritis may have no cure but can be treated to relieve pain and stop the condition from worsening. Osteoarthritis may be treated with pain medication and physical therapy to relieve painful swelling and stiffness.
Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are all over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs that have been known to relieve mild to moderate arthritis pain. RA and JRA are autoimmune diseases and have no cure but may be treated to improve quality of life in persons affected. Common drugs used to treat RA and JRA are corticosteroids, monoclonal antibodies and Remicade. Gout may also be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain from gout attacks and doctors may prescribe other medications to prevent future gout attacks by lowering uric acid levels. These medications are usually taken for life.