Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are common diseases that can cause pain, swelling and limitations in mobility. These diseases affect the joints and connective tissues around the body.
Arthritis means redness and swelling (inflammation) in the joints. Joints are located in the body where 2 or more bones meet. There are more than 100 types of arthritis disease. Rheumatic diseases are defined as conditions that cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments or bones. Arthritis is usually a chronic disease.
Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are more common in women than men. Although the disease is more common in older people, it affects people of all ages.
What Will We Learn?
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that mainly affects the weight-bearing joints of the knee, hip, and spine. The disease narrows the joint space by destroying the coating on the ends of the bones (cartilage).
It can also cause bone overgrowth, bony protrusions, and decreased bone function. Most people develop osteoarthritis as they age. In young people, the disease can also occur as a result of injury or excessive strain on the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. Inflammation can affect all joints. The disease can also affect other organs, such as the heart or lungs.
Different types of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases include:
- Gout: This disease causes uric acid crystals to build up in small joints such as the big toe. The disease causes pain and inflammation.
- Lupus: Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and damage to joints, tendons, and organs.
- Scleroderma: This autoimmune disease causes the thickening and hardening of the skin and other connective tissues throughout the body.
- Ankylosing spondylitis: This disease causes the bones of the spine to grow together and inflammation in other parts of the body. The disease can affect the hips, ribs, shoulders and small joints of the hands and feet.
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA): This is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation and joint stiffness in children. Children usually get through this disease easily, but in some cases, the disease can affect bone development in a growing child.
What Are The Causes Of Arthritis Disease?
The underlying cause of the disease depends on the type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear, tear, or overuse of the joint over time. Scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus cause the body’s immune system to attack the body’s own tissues.
Gout is caused by the accumulation of crystals in the joints. Some types of arthritis are caused by genetic reasons. People who have the HLA-B27 genetic marker have an increased risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis. The underlying cause of some types of arthritis is unknown.
Who Is At Risk Of Getting Arthritis?
Congenital and non-modifiable risk factors for arthritis include:
- Age: As you get older, your risk of developing arthritis increases.
- Gender: Arthritis is more common in women than men.
- Heredity: Some types of arthritis are linked to the activities of certain genes.
Risk factors that can be prevented and changed include:
- Weight: Being overweight can damage your knee joints and increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Injury: Joints that have been damaged by injury are more likely to develop arthritis.
- Infection: Reactive arthritis formation after previous infections can affect the joints.
- Work Worked: Work that requires constant movement such as bending and squatting can cause arthritis in the knees.
What Are the Symptoms Of Arthritis?
Symptoms may differ in each patient. The most common symptoms are:
- Persistent or repeated pain in 1 or more joints
- Warmth and redness in 1 or more joints
- Swelling in 1 or more joints
- Feeling of stiffness in 1 or more joints
- Problems in performing normal movements in 1 or more joints
These symptoms may be similar to other health problems. You should always consult the hospital for a definitive diagnosis.
How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will take information from you about your medical history and perform a physical examination. In addition to these, some tests such as the blood tests mentioned below can be performed:
- Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test: This test checks for antibody levels in the blood.
- Complete blood count (CBC): Checks the level of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
- Creatinine: It controls the presence of disease in the kidneys.
- Sedimentation rate: It is used to investigate the presence of inflammation.
- Hematocrit: Measures the number of red blood cells in the blood.
- RF (rheumatoid factor) and CCP (cyclic citrulline peptide) antibody tests: These tests are used in the diagnosis of the disease of rheumatoid arthritis and provide information about the severity of the disease.
- White blood cell count: It controls the level of white blood cells in your blood.
- Uric acid: It helps in diagnosing gout.
Other tests are also used to diagnose arthritis, such as:
- Joint aspiration (arthrocentesis): A small amount of synovial fluid sample taken from a joint is investigated for the presence of crystals, bacteria or viruses.
- X-ray or other imaging tests: It is used to determine the level of damage in the joint.
- Urinalysis: The presence of protein and different types of blood cells in the urine is checked.
- HLA tissue typing: This test investigates genetic markers that increase the risk of ankylosing spondylitis.
- Skin biopsy: Small tissue samples are taken and examined under a microscope to gather information to help diagnose diseases such as lupus and psoriatic arthritis.
- Muscle biopsy: Small muscle tissue taken from the patient is examined under a microscope to diagnose conditions affecting the muscles.
How Is Arthritis Treated?
Treatment is planned according to your symptoms, age, general health, type and severity of arthritis.
Although there is no cure to completely eliminate arthritis, the goal of treatment is usually to limit pain, and inflammation, and restore joint function. Treatment plans can include both short-term and long-term methods.
Short-term treatments include:
- Medications: Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can provide short-term relief for pain and inflammation.
- Applying heat and cold: Pain can be relieved by using moist heat (warm bath or shower) or dry heat (heating pad) on the joint. Applying cold (ice bag wrapped in a towel) on the joint may help in cases such as pain and swelling.
- Immobilization of the joints: The use of splints or other equipment helps to rest the joints and can protect the joint from further injury.
- Massage: A light massage applied to painful muscles can increase the temperature and blood flow in the muscle.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): The TENS device can prevent pain signals going to the brain and reduce the perception of pain by sending mild, electrical signals to the nerve endings in the painful area.
- Acupuncture: In this method, natural pain-relieving chemicals produced by the nervous system are produced with fine needles placed at certain points of the body. The treatment is carried out by a licensed doctor.
Long-term treatments include:
- Antirheumatic drugs: Antirheumatic drugs can slow down the disease and treat immune system problems that may occur due to the disease. Drugs such as methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, and chlorambucil are in this class.
- Corticosteroids: Oral or injectable corticosteroids, such as prednisone, can reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Hyaluronic acid treatment: Hyaluronic acid is a joint fluid whose amount is reduced in the damaged joint in osteoarthritis patients. It can be injected into the joints to relieve symptoms.
Arthritis treatment is carried out by a team of staff from the following specialties:
- Orthopedist / orthopedic surgeon
- Physical therapist
- Primary care doctor (family medicine or internal medicine)
- Rehabilitation nurse
- Psychologist or psychiatrist
What Are The Possible Complications Of Arthritis?
Because arthritis causes joints to worsen over time, it can cause disability, pain, and mobility problems. In the presence of advanced disease, you may have difficulty performing your normal daily activities.
Living With Arthritis
There is no cure for arthritis, but keeping the joints working by reducing pain and inflammation is essential. Lifestyle changes that can improve your quality of life will alleviate the effects of the disease on you. Some changes you can make to your lifestyle include:
- Diet: Excess weight puts more stress on weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. Weight loss will relieve these joints.
- Exercising: Activities such as swimming, walking, and low-tempo aerobic exercises can help reduce pain and stiffness in the joints. Stretching exercises can also help keep joints flexible.
- Activity and rest: Schedule periods of activity and rest to reduce stress on your joints. Rest periods after activity will help protect your joints and reduce your symptoms.
- Use of assistive devices: Tools such as canes, crutches, and walkers will keep stress away from certain joints and make you more balanced.
- Planning for drug use: Long-term use of some anti-inflammatory drugs can cause stomach bleeding. To reduce this risk, you can create a plan for taking medication with your doctor.
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