Arthritis refers to a joint disorder that entails inflammation of one or more joints (Clough, 2006). There are over one hundred various arthritis forms. Osteoarthritis is the most common arthritis form, and it results from infection or trauma to the joint or even aging. Other forms include rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis among others. Arthritis sufferers mainly complain of joint pains, which are often constant, and are sometimes restricted to the affected joint (Clough, 2006). This paper focuses on a description of arthritis in terms of its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments, as well as arthritis statistics and how the disease affects various body systems.
Causes of Arthritis
There are numerous causes of arthritis depending on its various forms for instance genetics as in the case of osteoarthritis, injury which causes degenerative arthritis, abnormal metabolism as well as an over-active immune system which causes rheumatoid arthritis (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009).
Arthritis has various symptoms such as limited functioning of joints, joint pains, reduced aerobic fitness, muscle weakness etc. Joint inflammation as a result of arthritis is characterized by joint swelling, stiffness, warmth and redness (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009). The inflamed joint can also experience tenderness. In addition, some arthritis forms are associated with inflammation and pain of the tendons that surround the joints. It is vital to point out that because a majority of arthritis forms are rheumatic diseases, they can cause symptoms that affect different body organs that do not involve the joints directly. Such symptoms include fever, weight loss, swelling of glands, feeling tired, poor sleep, as well as abnormal organs like the kidneys, heart, lungs etc (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009).
Diagnosis of arthritis is done through clinical examination by a proper health professional and can be supported by tests like blood tests and radiology, depending on the arthritis type suspected (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009). Of importance to note is the fact that all arthritis types feature pain, but the pain patterns vary based on the disease. For instance, Rheumatoid arthritis is usually worse in the morning hours and is characterized by stiffness during the early stages (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009). Patients of the disease experience no symptoms following a morning shower. On the other hand, Osteoarthritis gets worse following an exercise. Knowledge of the history of arthritis can act as a guide in the diagnosis for instance elements such as time and speed of commencement, joint involvement pattern, tenderness etc. Physical examination of the patient can help confirm the diagnosis. The use of radiographs is also very common for assessing the severity of the disease, or following up its sequence (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009).
There is no cure for arthritis but there are various treatment options that vary depending on the disease. They include:
Research studies have revealed that physically exercising the joints affected with arthritis can significantly relieve pain in the long-term (Fransen, Crosbie, & Edmonds, 2001). In addition, exercise of arthritic joints is encouraged not only for maintaining the health of the specific joint, but also the overall health of the person’s body. Physical therapy has been found to reduce pain considerably, improve joint function, and postpone the need for surgery in advanced cases (Fransen, Crosbie, & Edmonds, 2001). Exercise usually concentrates on improving muscle endurance, strength and flexibility.
There are different treatment options available for the treatment of arthritis. However, they depend on the form of arthritis being treated. They include:
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)
These are the most common drugs for the treatment of arthritis. They can either be in the form of a prescription or bought over the counter. NSAIDS helps in treating a wide range of ailments like fever, muscle pains, headaches etc when in low doses. When prescribed at higher doses, NSAIDS aid in the reduction of joint inflammation (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009). COX-2 inhibitors
COX-2 inhibitors are also useful in reducing inflammation and pain.
Salicylates are preferred by a majority of patients and doctors for pain reduction. Examples include aspirin (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009).Patients should consult their doctors incase they plan to utilize aspirin regularly. It has been found that using high dosage of aspirin in the long-term have serious negative effects like gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney problems (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009). However, for arthritis inflammation and pain to be controlled effectively, high doses are required frequently. Consequently, some doctors may recommend nonacetylated salicylate whenever they feel that aspirin is extremely risky for a patient (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009).
These are anti-inflammatory steroids that are exceptionally effective in controlling inflammation, and can be extremely useful when utilized appropriately (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009). However, patients are advised to consider the possible side effects of this drug prior to using it. Other treatment options for arthritis include weight control, joint replacement surgery, proper nutrition, as well as stress management (Angelillo, & Michael, 2009).
Arthritis has alarming statistics, with over 46 million Americans living with various forms of arthritis in the present (Clough, 2006). Research have shown that 1 in every 5 U.S. adults is diagnosed with arthritis symptoms. Fifty percent of people at the age of 65 years were diagnosed with the disease between 2003 and 2005. Health officials have estimated that, by 2030, 67 million adults and 294,000 children will be living with arthritis in the U.S. (Clough, 2006). Currently osteoarthritis affects over 21 million adults, while more than 2 million people are affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis statistics varies according to gender, age, as well as race. Data reveals that over 8 million sufferers of arthritis are between the age of 18 years and 44 years while about 20 million people with arthritis fall between the age of 45 years and 64 years (Clough, 2006). In addition, more than 17 million elderly people have been diagnosed with the disease. With regards to gender, research have shown that women are at a higher risk of getting arthritis than men, for instance, 28 million women and 18 million men have been diagnosed the disease in America. Non-Hispanics Blacks are affected with arthritis more than Hispanics i.e. more than 4 million Non-Hispanics Black have been diagnosed with the disease compared with just 3 million Hispanics (Clough, 2006). Considering weight, studies show that 30% and 21% of arthritis sufferers in the U.S. are obese and overweight respectively (Clough, 2006). Consequently, loosing weight can help decrease the risk of getting osteoarthritis among sufferers.
Explanations on How Arthritis Affects Various Body Systems
Different types of arthritis affect different body systems as discussed below:
The Nervous system
Lupus affects the central nervous system, as well as the peripheral nervous system. It affects the nervous system through antibodies, which attach to the nerve cells/ blood vessels that supply them with food, or by disrupting the flow of blood to the nerves (Clough, 2006). Conditions associated with Lupus are headaches, cognitive dysfunction etc.
Osteoarthritis affects the muscular-skeletal system, especially the cartilage and other joint tissues which get inflamed and worn down from movement without the protection of the cartilage, thus resulting in bone to bone contact (Clough, 2006). In advanced stages, even the bones can get destroyed (Clough, 2006). Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, and predicting the number or type of joint that will be affected is impossible.
Rheumatic arthritis, as well as lupus, affects the immune system causing it to attack itself i.e. the immune system’s cells begin to harm the body tissues (Clough, 2006). This can endanger the functioning of some processes and organs of the body i.e. the kidney, lungs etc, as well as causing lasting scarring (Clough, 2006).