Arthritis literally means “joint inflammation,” yet the term is used to refer to over 100 conditions that affect joints, the surrounding tissue and other connective tissue. It is a rheumatic disease, which means that it’s characterized by inflammation that affects the body’s connecting and supporting structures, most commonly joints, tendons, ligaments, bones and muscles.
The primary symptoms of arthritic conditions are joint pain and stiffness, swelling, redness and decreased range of motion. Arthritis is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors, yet some factors make individuals more prone to arthritis including previous joint injury, immune system disorders, infections, abnormal metabolism, obesity and age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, is the most common arthritic condition. It can affect any joint, but most commonly affects the knees, hips and fingers. It is generally caused by the normal wear and tear on joints over time, but it can also be caused by joint injuries.
Joints have cartilage, which is a rubbery material that cushions bones and enables movement. When that cartilage wears away – either as a result of an injury or due to normal wear and tear that happens with aging – bones begin rubbing together at joints. This causes osteoarthritis symptoms including pain, swelling, stiffness, tenderness, loss of flexibility, a grating sensation when using joints and bone spurs.
While osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of joints, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the lining of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of joints. While it primarily affects joints, it can also damage a number of the body’s systems and structures including the skin, eyes, heart, lungs and kidneys. Common signs of rheumatoid arthritis include tender, warm or swollen joints; joint stiffness; fatigue; fever and loss of appetite.
While exact rheumatoid arthritis causes are unknown, it seems likely that there is a genetic component. Although genes alone don’t cause the condition, they appear to make individuals more susceptible to certain environmental factors that trigger the disease. Further, some factors seem to make individuals more prone to rheumatoid arthritis including gender (females are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis); age (it most often begins in middle ages); a family history of the disease; a history of smoking; and obesity.
The primary goal when treating arthritis is to control the pain, reduce joint damage and either maintain or improve the patient’s quality of life. The type of treatment needed depends on the type and severity of arthritis that the patient has.
Osteoarthritis treatments generally involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, lifestyle modifications, and patient education. Additionally, some patients benefit from minimally invasive procedures like cortisone injections and hyaluronic acid injections. In a limited number of cases, joint replacement is an effective way to alleviate arthritis pain.
While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, research indicates that the likelihood of remission increases when patients receive early treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS). In addition, other rheumatoid arthritis treatments include additional medications, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Some patients require surgical treatments including a synovectomy, tendon repair, joint fusion or joint replacements.
If you are experiencing painful arthritic symptoms or if joint pain is interfering with your daily life, contact Glaser Pain Relief Center in Encino to learn more about your treatment options.