Arthritis

Table of Contents

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is when you experience swelling and pain in one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness that usually worsen as you age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis causes damage to your cartilage. Meanwhile, rheumatoid arthritis is when your immune system attacks the lining of the joints.

High levels of uric acid in the blood can cause solid crystals to form within joints. Underlying infections or diseases, such as psoriasis or lupus, can cause other types of arthritis.

Treatment options suitable for arthritis aim to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Make an appointment with a rheumatologist for further tests.

Types of Arthritis

There are two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both can damage joints in different ways. 

Osteoarthritis

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This joint disorder causes damage to your cartilage. Cartilage serves as a support at the end of the bone and allows movement of the joints almost without friction, but severe damage can cause bone friction, resulting in pain and limited movement. 

Osteoarthritis also affects the entire joint. It causes changes in the bones and damages connective tissue that attaches the muscles to your bones and holds the joints together.

Rheumatoid Arthritis 

In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks the joint capsule layer (synovial membrane) until it becomes inflamed and swollen. This condition can destroy cartilage and bone inside the joint over time.

Causes of Arthritis

Possible risk factors that cause arthritis may include:

  • Family history. You are more likely to get arthritis if your parent or sibling also has the disorder. Genetics factor can put you at higher risk of arthritis.
  • Age. The risk of arthritis increases as you age.
  • Gender. Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men.
  • Joint injury. People who experience joint injuries while exercising are more likely to have arthritis in those joints.
  • Obesity. Excess weight puts pressure on the joints, especially the knees, hips and spine. People with obesity have a higher risk of developing arthritis.

When to See a Doctor for Arthritis

During the physical examination, your doctor will examine the joints to observe the presence of swelling, redness, and other factors. Your doctor will also check to determine how well you can move the joints.

Depending on the type of arthritis, your doctor may suggest some of the following tests.

Laboratory Test

To get a sample of your joint fluid, the doctor will clean and thicken the area before inserting a needle into your joint space to collect fluid samples.

Analysis of body fluid types can help determine the type of arthritis. Example of fluids include blood, urine, and joint fluids. To get a sample of your joint fluid, your doctor will clean the area before inserting the needle into your joint to take a fluid sample.

Imaging Tests

This type of test can detect problems inside the joints that may cause symptoms of arthritis, such as:

  • X-ray. This test is used to indicate areas that have lost cartilage, suffered bone damage, and bone spurs.  X-rays may not show damage to arthritis, but are often used to control the progression of the disease.
  • CT Scan. This test is performed to visualize the surrounding bones and soft tissues.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test combines radio waves with a powerful magnetic field. MRI can produce more detailed cross-sectional images of soft tissue, such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Ultrasound. The technology in ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to visualize soft tissues, cartilage, and fluid-containing structures near joints (bursa).

Symptoms of Arthritis

Joint pain has become the most common sign and symptom of arthritis. Depending on the type, other signs and symptoms of arthritis may include:

  • Redness.
  • Swelling.
  • Stiffness
  • Limited movements 

Severe arthritis, particularly if it affects your hands or arms, can interfere with your daily activities. Arthritis of weight-bearing joints can make you unable to walk comfortably or sit upright. In some cases, joints can become twisted and change shape. 

Treatment for Arthritis

Speak to your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of arthritis. If left untreated, the condition can become worse.Your doctor will likely prescribe medications to slow the progression of arthritis and help keep you moving. Possible treatments for arthritis include:

  • Medications to reduce pain and inflammation. This can include over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, or medications your doctor prescribes.
  • Medications to suppress the immune system – which can be taken orally or by injections. 
  • Topical creams and ointments – usually available without a prescription, this treatment can be applied to your skin to reduce joint pain.
  • Physical therapy. In some cases, physical therapy can help strengthen muscles and help you move more freely.
  • Surgery. Severely damaged joints caused by arthritis may need repair or replacement.

Treatment Cost for Arthritis

Treatment cost for arthritis varies greatly. For more details regarding the estimated treatment for arthritis at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Arthritis

You cannot prevent certain causes of arthritis, such as getting older, being female, or having a family history of arthritis. However, you can take the following steps to reduce the risk of arthritis: 

  • Maintain ideal weight.
  • Perform stretching – stretching can increase your range of motion and keep your joints flexible.
  • Eat fish twice a week- omega-3s have many health benefits and can reduce joint inflammation.
  • Quit smoking, as smoking puts pressure on the tissues that protect the joints and can cause arthritis
  • Avoid injury by wearing protective gear while exercising and always lift with your knees and hips, not with your waist. 
  • Control blood sugar – high blood sugar can make the tissue that supports joints become stiff and more sensitive to stress.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes, 5 times a week- this can help keep your joints flexible and strengthen the muscles that support your knees and hips. Focus on light exercise, such as walking, cycling, or swimming.

Home Remedies for Arthritis 

In general, symptoms of arthritis can be reduced with the following treatments, including:

  • If you are obese, losing weight will put less stress on the weight-bearing joints – eventually increasing mobility and lowering your chances of having joint injuries.
  • Regular exercise can help maintain joint flexibility. Swimming and water aerobics may be good choice of exercises.
  • Use of heating pad or ice pack can help relieve arthritis pain.
  • Use of canes, shoe inserts, walkers, raised toilet seats, and other assistive devices can help protect your joints and improve your ability to perform daily tasks

Have more questions about Arthritis? Write them down in the comment section below or book a consultation with a rheumatologist at home and abroad through Smarter Health.

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