Arthritis – Causes and Treatment
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. It can affect one joint or multiple joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatment methods. Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints.
There are around 200 types of arthritis or musculoskeletal conditions. These are split into seven main groups:
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Degenerative or mechanical arthritis
- Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain
- Back pain
- Connective tissue disease
- Infectious arthritis
- Metabolic arthritis.
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, your signs and symptoms may include:
- Decreased range of motion
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Family history. Some types of arthritis run in families, so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder. Your genes can make you more susceptible to environmental factors that may trigger arthritis.
- Age. The risk of many types of arthritis — including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout — increases with age.
- Your sex. Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout, another type of arthritis, are men.
- Previous joint injury. People who have injured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint.
- Obesity. Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips, and spine. People with obesity have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
Treatment for arthritis aims to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain function and quality of life.
A range of medications and lifestyle strategies can help achieve this and protect joints from further damage.
Treatment might involve:
- non-pharmacologic therapies
- physical or occupational therapy
- splints or joint assistive aids
- patient education and support
- weight loss
- surgery, including joint replacement
Also, a healthful, balanced diet with appropriate exercise, avoiding smoking, and not drinking excess alcohol can help people with arthritis maintain their overall health.