What is Arthritis?
Arthritis refers to more than a 100 different types of diseases and conditions affecting joints, tissues surrounding the joints and other connective tissues. It commonly presents as swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased motion range of joints. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, progressively getting worse with time.
Arthritis is most commonly experienced by adults over 65 years of age and women. It can have significant impacts on daily life, work and activities, sometimes also affecting the immune system and multiple organs. Arthritis can be inflammatory, degenerative, infectious or metabolic.
Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are the most prevalent forms of arthritis.
This is the most common form affecting almost eight million people and has a gradual onset after 40 years of age. It affects the smooth cartilage lining, making movement more difficult. It is a degenerative joint disease, involving the joint cartilage, lining and ligaments. The most affected areas are the knees, hips, hands and spine.
It affects more than 400,000 people, usually starting between 40 and 50 years of age. It is a long-term condition that occurs when the body’s immune system targets joints. Persistent inflammation leads to degeneration of the cartilage and bone, causing deformity, pain and swelling. It may cause premature mortality and disability. The most affected areas are hands, feet and wrists.
Symptoms for arthritis can develop gradually or suddenly, and varies with the type.
Commonly experienced symptoms include;
- Pain – can be constant or intermittent, might be isolated or felt in many parts
- Swelling – swelling of skin over the affected joint
- Difficulty moving a joint
Symptoms can also be specific to the type of arthritis developed.
- Joint tenderness
- Pain and stiffness in joints, which is worse after exercise or pressure
- Enlarged, knobbly joint
- Rubbing, grating sound when joint is moved
- Pain causing sleep disturbance.
- Affects joints on both sides of the body equally
- Chest pain when taking a breath
- Dry eyes
- Numbness, tingling or burning sensation in hands or feet
- High temperature
- Weight loss
There is no single cause for arthritis, it varies according to the type.
Normally, joints are exposed to a constant level of wear and tear, and manage to repair itself, however for people suffering from arthritis, it gets worse with time, resulting in associated symptoms. Causes for this include;
- Abnormal metabolism
- Immune system dysfunction
It could be a single cause or a combination of factors responsible for the development of arthritis.
There are certain risk factors associated with the condition;
- Age – it is more prevalent in older people
- Sex – more common in females
- Genes – higher risk if a close relative suffers from the condition
- Obesity – contributes to the onset and progression of arthritis
- Joint injuries – can cause damage to the joints and develop arthritis
- Infection – can infect joints and trigger the development of arthritis
- Occupation – work that involves repetitive knee bending, squatting etc. are associated with osteoarthritis.
Your GP will be able to diagnose arthritis and its specific type based on your medical history, and symptoms experienced.
Certain tests may be ordered to diagnose the type of arthritis suspected.
Blood tests cannot definitively diagnose arthritis, but tests such as Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) and C-Reactive Protein to assess inflammation, a Complete Blood Count (CBC) to rule out anaemia, Rheumatoid factor (RF) and Anti-CCP antibody to specifically diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, can be suggested.
X-rays, ultrasound scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans can produce detailed images of your joints.
To examine joint movement and if it causes crackling sounds, assess joint swelling, and the range of motion.
There is no cure for arthritis, but treatment can help reduce inflammation in the joints, relieve pain, prevent or slow down joint damage and reduce the chances for disability. It is most effective to begin treatment as early as possible.
We can prescribe medication to relieve your pain and stop further damage to your joints.
Prescribed depending on the severity of your pain and other conditions.
These include Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. Can be had to relieve pain or as a preventative measure before the onset of severe pain.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
These are painkillers that work by reducing inflammation. Can be prescribed if painkillers or Paracetamol are ineffective. This includes Volatrol.