Arthritis – Causes, Types Symptoms, and Treatments

arthritis

Joint conditions are a very common health condition millions of people develop each year. The most typical joint condition is arthritis. Arthritis is a joint disorder which affects the tissue around the joints. This can be caused by a variety of factors. From age, lifestyle choices or weight. 

The most common forms of arthritis is osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both can be prevented or treated well. But, not cured. In the United States, arthritis is the number one cause of disability. 

Arthritis is a common condition which many leave untreated. Yet, if the right treatment is not provided to the affected joints, this can cause disability or joint deformities. This eventually can make everyday living very difficult. Thus, it is important to know the symptoms, causes and appropriate diagnosis and treatment information to help you and others.

Today, we will cover everything and more you need to know about arthritis, how to treat it and lower the risk of developing it:

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis refers to two things – joint pain and joint disease. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Commonly abbreviated to OA. This is due to joint caps wearing away overtime. Osteoarthritis can occur naturally. Sometimes, it is due to previous injury or infection of the joints which causes a reduction in cartilage tissue. The lack of tissue causes joints to rub together, resulting in pain and swelling.

The second most common form of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is an autoimmune disorder which is caused by the immune system attacking the synovium. The synovium is a soft tissue that produces fluids which prevents joints from rubbing together. Lubrication around the joints is essential to prevent bone breakdown and joint friction. When rheumatoid arthritis occurs, it is often more devastating than osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis often results in complete destruction of a joint, which is longer term and more painful.

Arthritis in general typically causes joint inflammation, pain, stiffness and reduced mobility. This usually occurs in the hands, spine, knees and hips.

For some, the symptoms can be mild and short term. For others, they can be more severe and last years. Rare cases see patients suffering from complete immobility and chronic pain. 

Many recognise the condition to typically affect elderly people, but it is much more than that. Arthritis has over 100 identified different types which can impact any gender, sex and age. 

Worldwide more than 50 million people have or have had arthritis. Within those people, over 300,000 of them are children. Typically, women develop arthritis easier than men. More often than not, overweight individuals have an excelled development of arthritic conditions due to heavier friction on the joints on a daily basis.

It is indeed most common amongst elederly people, usually those over the age of 65. Which is due to wear and tear of the joints over the years. Yet, arthritis can develop at any age. 

To find out more about its history and development over the years, here is more:

History of Arthritis

Some may argue that arthritis dates back centuries to dinosaurs. Many fossils have been found that resemble human arthritis that occurs from gout. 

Similar to this, remains of Native Americans from 4500 BCE show bones that display signs of rheumatoid arthritis. 

Yet, the first real documentation of human arthritis symptoms was in the 1800’s by Dr Augustin Jacob Landre-Beauvais, a French physician in Paris. Later in 1859, it was given the official name “arthritis” by British rheumatologist, Dr Alfred Baring Garrod.

Arthritis is known to be one of the very first conditions to be clinically addressed, diagnosed and coined in medical history.

Since, research has found that arthritis is due to several factors. The main factor being a genetic inheritance of arthritis. If any form of arthritis runs in the family, then all family members are at a high risk of getting it. 

On the topic of causes, let’s taken a further look into the key causes and risk factors of arthritis:

Arthritis: Causes and Risk Factors

There is no single cause of arthritis. As there are over 100 types of arthritis, there is not one main cause. Yet, there are several causes to be aware of:

  • Injury
  • Gout/Abnormal metabolism
  • Inheritance
  • Infection
  • Immune system dysfunction

Most arthritis patients develop the condition to a mix of these factors. But for most people, there is no obvious or single cause. Most cases derive from years of wear, infection, pressure and stress.

Yet, for the two most common forms of arthritis, there are proven causes. This means that if you develop OA or RA, the cause will more often than not be obvious.

Cartilage breakdown is the key driver of some forms of arthritis. It is a flexible tissue in all joints that works to protect against stress pressure. When cartilage is reduced, due to wear and tear or infection, this can cause osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can also be caused by inheriting the gene. But more often than not, it is due to excessive pressure on the joints.

For rheumatoid arthritis, it is mainly caused by the immune system attacking the body’s tissue. When the tissue is attacked, so is the fluid. The fluid is essential for lubricating the joints. Without this, joints wear together and cause pain, inflammation and other arthritic symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis can also be caused by inheriting the genes. 

Speaking of genetics, these are a key risk factor of arthritis. Along with that are a few other risk factors that are associated with arthritis. This includes:

Age

Arthritis can occur at any age. But, it is most common in those over 65 years old. 

Sex

Although arthritis can happen in both sexes, it is more common in women. Women make up over 60% of arthritis patients. 

Genetics

A key driver of arthritis is genetics. People are at higher risk if a member of the family has arthritis. Especially if it is one of the most common forms – OA or RA.

Weight

Anyone overweight or obese can be at higher risk of developing arthritis. Constant excess pressure and stress on the joints can contribute to arthritis and the breakdown of cartilage. Commonly, overweight individuals develop osteoarthritis more than rheumatoid arthritis.

Occupation

Any hard labour jobs that involve joint strain can cause a person to be at higher risk of getting arthritis. Occupational risks often result in osteoarthritis due to the overuse and stress of joints.

Although some risk factors are unmodifiable, some can be changed. For example,  age and genetics cannot be changed. Yet, weight can. Hence, partaking in regular exercise can help those overweight to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis from constant pressure on joints.

Like causes and risk factors, there are many symptoms to be aware of in order to identify the joint disorder early:

Symptoms of Arthritis

Symptoms of arthritis will differ depending on the form of arthritis you have. For the most part, these are a few key symptoms to be aware of. The following symptoms can indicate current or developing arthritis:

  • Joint pain
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation in/around the joint
  • Reduced mobility of the joint
  • Warm/red skin around the joint
  • Weakness in/around the joints
  • Muscle loss around the joints
  • Disfiguration of the bones in the joint

Any of these symptoms are typically signs of arthritis. There are a few other symptoms that can signal developing rheumatoid arthritic forms. These are non joint related which means they do not involve the joints that arthritis can affect. Yet, they can have an impact on the organs due to rheumatoid arthritis being a disorder that is caused by the immune system. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Gland swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormalities in the organs – heart, lungs or kidneys

These symptoms can often be mistaken for common cold or flu. But, research suggests that they can be an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis. 

Detecting general or unusual symptoms early can help diagnose and treat arthritis quicker. A fast detection can inhibit the arthritis from becoming severe and chronic.

The next step after noticing symptoms is getting a formal diagnosis:

Diagnosis of Arthritis

A diagnosis is vital for discovering what is causing joint pain, inflammation or more. If you notice persistent or severe symptoms, this is a sign to seek help.

Getting the right advice and help can make an extreme difference to the severity of the arthritis. Catching it early and getting the right treatment can prevent the disorder from worsening and becoming long term. 

The first step to take is seeing your general doctor. They will assess your symptoms and are able to check a few things which can be indicators of arthritis. This includes mobility of the joints, colour/temperature of the area and the fluids. From this assessment, the doctor will diagnose you with arthritis and/or refer you to a specialist.

If the form of arthritis is severe or needs professional treatment, you will be referred to a specialist arthritis expert. These are known as rheumatologists. They can help treat unexplained or severe arthritic forms. 

Diagnosis techniques include blood tests, X-rays and MRI scans, which can conclude a proper diagnosis. Rheumatologists are best for seeking the most professional and effective treatment. 

For the best treatment, professionals will advise you the correct method. Those treatment methods include:

How To Treat Arthritis

As there is no current cure for arthritis, there are numerous ways of reducing the pain and other symptoms. The key for treating arthritis is finding out which treatment method works best to resolve pain severity, inflammation and reduced mobility. 

Most people would begin with over the counter medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Some enjoy heat pads or ice packs to reduce pain and relieve swelling. Although these can all numb the pain or temporarily reduce the inflammation, they are not ideal for long term arthritic patients. Nor are they effective for severe cases of arthritis. Other treatment methods include medications, home remedies, surgeries and therapies. All which can be found below:

Medication

There are various forms of medication that can help relieve and reduce arthritis pain and severity. All of which can be used alongside exercises to reduce arthritis symptoms, surgery to reduce inflammation and joint immobility and home remedies. These include:

Analgesics: these are effective for managing and relieving pain. But, are no use for inflammation as they do not contain any anti-inflammatory components. Analgesics often recommended for arthritis pain includes hydrocodone (Vicodin), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and tramadol (Ultram).

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs are the most commonly purchased over the counter drugs for relieving pain and reducing inflammation. This includes regular ibuprofen to more advanced NSAIDs such as naproxen sodium (Aleve). 

Counterirritants: creams and ointments that contain menthol or capsaicin can help reduce pain. Capsaicin is most popular. It is the ingredient that makes hot peppers spicy. When you rub them on the affected joint, the ingredient works by modulating pain signals. 

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): DMARDs are often prescribed to rheumatoid arthritis patients. They work by inhibiting or slowing the immune system attacking the joints. The most popular DMARDs for this are methotrexate (Trexall) and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil).

Corticosteroids: cortisone has proven to have great results on suppressing the immune system. These in particular are ideal for RA patients as they can stop or slow them attacking the tissue on the joints, which is a key cause of arthritis. These can often be given as injections. 

Biologics: biologic response modifiers work best for rheumatoid arthritis patients. When used alongside DMARDs, they can target protein molecules. Of which, are involved with slowing or stopping the immune response. 

At Home Remedies

There are various ways in which lifestyle changes can reduce pain or swelling. Or, inhibit or slow the development of arthritis. This can be as simple as changing your diet to stopping smoking. These remedies include:

Changing your diet: there is no specific arthritis diet. But, there are a few foods to eat that promote reducing inflammation. A simple change in diet can have a huge impact. Foods that contain anti-inflammatory compounds and beneficial nutrients for the joints include fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, beans, olive oil and whole grains. Typically, a low carb, low fat, natural sugar and omega3 enriched diet is ideal for reducing arthritic swelling. 

Natural remedies: taking vitamins and supplements can work well for reducing arthritis symptoms. Much research supports the use of a few natural ingredients such as devil’s claw, rosehip, ginger, turmeric and Boswellia. All of these have some efficacy for treating arthritis.

Staying active: low impact exercise is the best form of movement for arthritis. Research states that regular movement will help reduce swelling and improve mobility of the joints. This includes yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, gentle cycling, pilates and walking. Pain during exercise is normal. But, if pain becomes severe then exercise should be stopped. Regular exercise will also help maintain a healthy weight, which is key for reducing the risk of arthritis. Overweight individuals are more likely to suffer due to excess daily pressure on the joints. 

Caring for your joints: although regular exercise is recommended, it is just as important to get enough rest for your joints. Always be aware of overusing and unnecessarily stressing your joints during the day to reduce the pressure on them. 

Therapies

If surgery or physical therapy is needed, the doctor will recommend that. Therapies and surgeries are typically for those with limited mobility. They can help with movement and in some cases, reverses limitations. 

Physical therapy: the most common form of therapy is physical therapy, which ranges from physio to massages. Physiotherapy appointments can help a patient create an exercise routine that will involve gentle stretches and strengthening techniques. These help to regain lost muscle and movement in the  joint. 

Warm water therapy: this technique involves exercises performed in a warm pool of water. This helps take weight and pressure off of the joints. 

Occupational therapy: this practice involves helping people make better lifestyle choices. Usually, the doctor will provide a patient with aid to help with everyday tasks that have become difficult due to lack of mobility. 

Surgery: surgery can sometimes be advised. This is usually in cases for elder people or those with severe joint damage. Surgical procedures for arthritis will involve joint replacement. This is commonly a knee or a hip replacement. For smaller joints, like fingers and toes, surgeons can perform joint fusion. This involves locking your bones together so that they become one.

If arthritis is left untreated, people can suffer with consequences:

Consequences of Arthritis

As there is no cure for arthritis, is it essential to receive the correct treatment to reduce symptoms. 

As well as medication, it is often advised to make a few lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms and risk of the disorder worsening. These lifestyle changes can include regular exercise, a balanced diet and reducing/eliminating alcohol and tobacco use. Healthy lifestyle choices can contribute to better health of your overall body, even your joints. Healthy weight individuals with a healthy BMI are at lower risk of arthritis than those who are overweight.

If a person does not attain the right medication and lifestyle changes, they are at risk of long term consequences of arthritis. 

Joint damage and deformity

Untreated arthritis can lead to joint damage or deformity. If a patient leaves arthritis and does not receive the right treatment, then it can lead to permanent damage. Rheumatoid arthritis leads to destruction of the tissue around the joints. If the tissue is completely destroyed, this is when consequences will instigate. Deformity of joints typically occurs in the hands, feets, fingers and toes. The joint will become deformed and unable to treat.

Disability

Rheumatoid arthritis does not only affect the bones and joints. When the tissue wears away, this can later affect muscles, ligaments and tendons which aid the joint with proper mobility. Thus, without the tissue these can weaken, which can lead to loss of function – i.e. disability

Osteoporosis 

Osteoporosis is a condition which causes bone thinning. As rheumatoid arthritis causes loss of tissue around the joints, it increases the risk of your bones becoming brittle and thinning. If arthritic pain and swelling persists without treatment, this can lead to lack of mobility which can contribute to the increased risk of getting osteoporosis. 

Depression

Arthritis is a condition that can cause immobility and disability if left untreated, or if it is a severe case. This lack of mobility can cause issues in behaviour and cognitive function. The inflammation that occurs due to rheumatoid arthritis affects the brain, which can lead to depression. 

As it is not yet known how to cure the condition, it is advised to diagnose and treat your arthritis as soon as possible to prevent such consequences. 

If you have any more concerns or queries on arthritis, here are the answers to the top most asked questions:

FAQ

Can arthritis go away?

There is no current cure to completely diminish arthritis. But, there are many treatment methods that can reduce symptoms and improve mobility. Seeing a professional to diagnose the form of arthritis is essential for getting the right treatment.

What is the cause of arthritis?

There is not one specific cause of arthritis. As there are over 100 forms of arthritis, it is difficult to assess the key cause. Yet, the most common form of the condition is osteoarthritis. This is caused by the breakdown of cartilage from excessive pressure and stress on the joints. Other key causes are infection or injury of the joint. 

What does arthritis pain feel like?

The first sign and pain symptoms of arthritis is called arthralgia. Typically, the person will notice a dull ache or burning sensation in the joint. This is often followed or alongside tenderness or soreness in the joint. The combination of these symptoms are an indication of developing arthritis and should be seen to by a doctor,

Does exercise help arthritis?

Exercise does indeed help arthritis. Gentle exercise is advised to loosen up joints to reduce stiffness. Exercise can also improve mobility, reduce swelling and combat fatigue in the affected joints. 

What are the 5 worst foods to eat if you have arthritis?

Foods that are high in sugar, carbohydrates, fat and toxic substances are bad for any medical condition, especially arthritis. This includes processed foods, dairy products, gluten, refined carbs and sugary foods. All can increase and cause inflammation. As inflammation is a key cause and symptom of arthritis, it is advised to avoid all foods and lifestyle choices that can increase the risk of arthritis.

What is the best natural remedy if you have arthritis?

There is an abundance of research for the best natural remedy for arthritis. It is safe to say that supplements are the best choice for natural remedies. That, or adding the key natural ingredients used in the supplements to your diet. These ingredients include curcumin, aloe vera, vitamin D and ginger. All are known to be verified nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). 

Green lipped mussels are known to be a great natural remedy for fighting inflammation in joints.

Most natural products that promote anti-inflammatory can help reverse the inflammation symptom of arthritis.

Are bananas bad for arthritis?

Bananas are known to be an anti-inflammatory fruit. They contain a high amount of magnesium, which is a natural inflammation fighting mineral. Science suggests that bananas can alleviate arthritic pain. A study found that arthritic patients who consumed bananas saw a significant reduction in swelling around their arthritic joint. 

Is coffee good for arthritis?

Much research demonstrates that coffee contains antioxidant polyphenols, which work like anti-inflammatories. This suggests that coffee can be good for arthritis,

But, some research suggests that coffee may increase the risk of arthritic conditions. Whilst others do not. There is not yet enough sufficient evidence to say coffee is 100% good or bad. 

The best advice to stick by is to consume coffee in moderation. As there is not enough research to finalise its arthritic effect, consume only a moderate amount. 

Does squeezing a ball help arthritis?

The Arthritis Institute of America found that squeezing a small soft ball can relieve arthritic pain and improve mobility. Strength in the hands is often reduced due to arthritis. Thus, improving your grip with the use of a soft ball can help a patient regain strength. 

With all this information and knowledge in mind, let us tell you our final thoughts:

Conclusion

With arthritis being a common joint disorder worldwide, it is essential to know everything you need to in order to receive the right treatment. Being aware of the symptoms, causes and risk factors can help people inhibit or reduce the impact that arthritis can cause. With over 100 arthritic forms, most have very similar symptoms. Meaning, anyone can notice the signs and do what they can to treat it.

Whilst there is no cure for arthritis, there is an abundance of different treatment methods. With the right treatment, patients can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. In time this will help sufferers live an easier life living with arthritis.

Doing everything you can to slow or inhibit the progression of arthritis, use this as your guide to increase fitness, improve your diet and make a few better lifestyle choices.

Read more about other Joint Pain conditions, its symptoms and more in our article. Or for advice on supplements that can benefit arthritis, you may enjoy our Omega XL or Fish Oil articles.

If you have any other questions or feedback, please do share that with us.

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