Arthritis is a chronic disease that will be with you for a long time and possibly for the rest of your life. Arthritis is diagnosed through a careful evaluation of symptoms and a physical examination. Learn the nature and causes of this disease and what you can do to prevent it. Furthermore, find out what you should do if you’ve been diagnosed.
Arthritis is a major cause of lost work time and serious disability for many people. Arthritis is not just an old person’s disease. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a “cushion” between the bones of the joints. Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary greatly from patient to patient. On the other hand, others may have remarkably few symptoms in spite of dramatic degeneration of the joints apparent on x-rays. Symptoms also can be intermittent. It is not unusual for patients with osteoarthritis of the hands and knees to have years of pain-free intervals between symptoms.
Osteoarthritis of the spine causes pain in the neck or low back. Bony spurs that form along the arthritic spine can irritate spinal nerves, causing severe pain, numbness, and tingling of the affected parts of the body. Osteoarthritis causes the formation of hard bony enlargements of the small joints of the fingers.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium. Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose early because it can begin gradually with subtle symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in middle age and is most common in older people.
Treatment options include medications, reduction of joint stress, physical and occupational therapy, and surgical intervention. Treatment decisions require careful consideration of the risks and benefits to the mother and fetus.