Arthritis

Arthritis: Types, Symptoms and Treatment Image

Arthritis is characterized by pain and tenderness in the joints. Many people who suffer from arthritis find that they are stiff and have a shorter range of motion than they previously experienced. Arthritis affects both men and women, as well as the young and old.

Types of Arthritis

Arthritis is generally diagnosed as one of two types: osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. These are the two most common types of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is usually caused by an injury, being overweight or aging. This kind of arthritis is also called Degenerative Joint Disease. Osteoarthritis is most commonly found in the joints of the:
    • hands
    • hips
    • knees
    • spine.

    Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between the joints breaks down. When this occurs, the bones rub together, causing pain and swelling. This lack of cartilage can damage the joint over time.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when your body attacks its own joints and, sometimes, other tissues, such as the eyes or lungs. This type of arthritis occurs more frequently in women than men and generally begins between the ages of 25 and 55. For some people, the disease is short-lived. For others, it lasts for the rest of their lives.

    Rheumatoid arthritis is most often found in the hands and wrists. The condition is also found symmetrically, meaning that it happens in the same places on both sides of the body.

    Rheumatoid arthritis can also take the form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which is a form of the disease that appears in children.

Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis symptoms are generally the same for both types of arthritis. Symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • feelings of weakness
  • joint deformity
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of motion
  • pain
  • redness
  • stiffness
  • swelling
  • tenderness.

Arthritis Diagnosis

Arthritis is usually diagnosed when a person visits his doctor because the pain, stiffness or swelling he is experiencing has started to interfere with his daily activities. To diagnose arthritis, your doctor will ask you:

  • if some activities make the pain worse
  • if the pain is constant or ongoing
  • to describe the pain (e.g., throbbing, stabbing, dull, etc.)
  • what time of day the pain is most noticeable.

Your doctor will also most likely perform:

  • blood tests
  • CT scans
  • MRIs
  • urine tests
  • X-rays.

Once your doctor has diagnosed what form of arthritis you have, a treatment plan can be put together to help you get back to your normal daily activities. Getting an early diagnosis of arthritis can usually help prevent further joint damage as well.

Arthritis Treatment Options

The treatments for arthritis aim to treat arthritis pain and prevent further pain and joint damage. Treatment for osteoarthritis generally involves the use of over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes. Treatment options also include:

  • alternative therapies (e.g., acupuncture, massage, etc.)
  • moderate exercise
  • rest
  • weight control.

In severe cases, arthritis may need to be treated with surgery. Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • alternative therapies (e.g., acupuncture, massage, etc.)
  • lifestyle changes
  • prescription medications
  • surgery.

Resources

Aetna Intelihealth Inc. (2007). Arthritis. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from the Intelihealth.com Web site: http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/24479/9071/9071.html.

MedlinePlus (2007). Arthritis. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from the National Library of Medicine Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/arthritis.html.