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What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a word we use to describe pain and stiffness in joints. It is a very common condition and there are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. The causes of arthritis can be due to things such as auto immune diseases causing inflammatory arthropathies, infections, trauma, and wear-and-tear.
Symptoms can vary and may even come and go in severity, but typically have pain, swelling, reduced joint mobility, and stiffness. Pain can be mild, moderate or severe, or it may stay the same for years. It can affect one's ability to perform daily activities such as walking and going upstairs.
Types of arthritis
Even though there are many types of arthritis, such as inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritis, for the most part, the type of arthritis that we generally see at Sensus Health and Wellness in Fulham, is osteoarthritis, which is non-inflammatory. For inflammatory-types of arthritis, we recommend you see your GP for further investigation.
Common types of inflammatory arthritis include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that affects many joints, especially the small joints in the hands and wrists, and causes destruction of these joints.
- Psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis affects about 30% of people who have the skin condition known as psoriasis. This type of arthritis tends to affect many joints in the body, especially those in the hands.
- Ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis is also an inflammatory-type of arthritis that tends to affect the spine and larger joints of the body and the joints can characteristically fuse together.
- Gouty arthritis. Gouty arthritis is another type of arthritis that is characterized by severe pain, tenderness, and inflammation in the joints. It is caused by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. This is often diet-related and commonly effects the big toes.
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis and we know it as a "wear-and-tear" type of arthritis. There is no blood test for this type of arthritis, but it is easily diagnosed using X-rays.
Our bones have cushioned surfaces on the ends of them known as cartilage. The cartilage acts as a shock absorber in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and spine, and prevents our bones from rubbing together. In the spine, they also serve as "spacers" between the vertebrae with helps maintain the openings of the nerve channels.
With osteoarthritis, the cartilage has worn away over time. Some joints wear faster than others, especially if those joints have been subjected to previous trauma to the area, or if they have been out of alignment…think of tires on the car getting bald spots on them if the pressure in the tires isn't equal and balanced. Sometimes, having a family history of arthritis can also play a part in determining if you will get arthritis or not. Another cause of wear-and-tear to the cartilage in the joints is due to obesity. When the cartilage is worn down, then the bones start to rub together which can result in pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Treatment for osteoarthritis
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis cannot be reversed. However, it is not a given that we will all get arthritis one day, and to a great extent, it can be prevented. By maintaining a healthy weight, an active lifestyle, avoiding hobbies or jobs that involve repetitive use of your joints, and staying out of harms way (which is not exactly unavoidable) then you have every reason to expect healthy joints later on in life.
In my blog titled "Tips for Managing Arthritis" you will find ways to manage your arthritis pain and symptoms. However, if all things combined are not effective enough to manage your pain and mobility, then you may consider using pain relievers and/or even consider getting a joint replacement to help improve the quality of your life.
Thanks for reading!