The term “arthritis” generally refers to any inflammation of the joints in our body. Although there are over a hundred conditions caused by joint inflammation, the most frequent ones are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
Osteoarthritis manifests through acute pain in the joints accompanied by swelling, creaking, or stiffness, particularly after periods of inactivity. However, some people may spend months, even years, without realizing the presence of this problem, especially because the symptoms fail to manifest. The affected areas include knees, hips, lower back and neck although it may upset small finger joints as well. The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with injuries, obesity, lack of physical activity, family history of arthritis, and inevitably, aging.
Rheumatoid arthritis may spread to other organs, unlike osteoarthritis. This joint inflammation can affect skin, eyes, lungs, and blood vessels. It occurs when our immune system starts attacking joint cells because it mistakes them for a foreign substance. This leads to the loss of cartilage – the fine tissue wrapped around the joints – and consequently, joints lose stability, flexibility and emerge as swollen and painful. Unfortunately, once started, this condition becomes irreversible so early diagnosis is of pivotal importance. Apart from pain and swelling, rheumatoid arthritis may coincide with acute fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite.
Gout is chiefly the most painful form of arthritis and starts with an abrupt discomfort and ache around the joints. The symptoms accompanying gout include localized joint soreness, redness, and stiffness. Regardless of its type – acute, interval, or chronic – gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in our blood which form needle-like crystals in the joints. This may cause excruciating pain.
How to treat arthritis?
Although science is still looking into the causes of arthritis, there has been a general agreement that several factors increase the risk of developing it. Hence, the treatment has to be implemented accordingly. To begin with, eliminating the risk factors may significantly increase the chances of tackling this ailment before it takes place.
Physical exercise and stretching stimulate the blood flow and joint mobility. Not only will the joints become more flexible and exhibit a bigger range of motion, but the weight loss induced by physical exercise may lessen the stress on the joints.
Proper nutrition may play a vital role in preventing and combating arthritis. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are said to have beneficial effects on the joints. Fish, beans, nuts, olive oil, or whole grains make excellent food choice for combating this condition.
As women tend to develop rheumatoid arthritis more frequently than men, hormones might be the risk factor.
Medications prescribed for arthritis include analgesics, corticosteroids, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They are known as ibuprofen, naproxen, Motrin or Advil.