Arthritis Basics

Arthritis is a problem that affects millions of people throughout the world. Arthritis is often referred to as a single disease, but it's a term that's used to describe more than 100 medical conditions that affect those joints where two or more bones meet.

Pain, stiffness, inflammation, and damage to joint cartilage are common symptoms of arthritis. Joint Cartilage is the flexible tissue that covers the ends of bones, enabling them to move against each another. When arthritis causes damage to cartilage, joint weakness, instability, and deformities can result which interfere with even the most basic daily tasks, such as walking, driving a car, and preparing food.

A widely held belief is that arthritis is a natural or normal occurrence as a person ages. That is, arthritis is a normal consequence of growing old. However, arthritis is not a natural part of aging. In addition, approximately 60 percent of all people suffering from arthritis are younger than retirement age.

In western countries, where many populations are aging, the percentage of people with arthritis is increasing, and current estimates indicate that 20 percent of people could suffer from some form of arthritis by 2020.

Although arthritis is not yet curable, the condition is usually manageable, and various research indicates that early intervention can delay the onset of the disease. However, arthritis often impacts on the sufferer's quality of life and causes varying degrees of discomfort and pain.

Two of the most common forms of arthritis are known as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease, and it is often brought about by the general wear that our bodies face throughout life. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the knees, hips, hands, or the spine, and those with the problem face symptoms of pain, tenderness of the area, decreased functionality of the area, and swelling. One’s risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age, and the condition usually debilitates over time. Rheumatoid arthritis is a very different type of arthritis; it’s a disease in which the human immune system mistakes the cell linings of the affected joint as an invader, and attacks them. It’s a chronic disease that can potentially cause a complete disability of the affected joint, and those with rheumatoid arthritis often face symptoms of joint pain, stiffness, loss of function and a swelling of the afflicted area.

While there are more than 100 distinct forms of arthritis, the most common forms include:

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)
  • Gout
  • Juvenile Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (often simply called Lupus)

In fact, more than 95 per cent of all Arthritis cases are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Gout. Out of the most common forms of Arthritis (listed above), the following are auto-immune disease related:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • SSystemic Lupus Erythematosus (often simply called Lupus)

Which means that a sufferer's own immune system attacks their own body tissues, causing the symptoms. That is, the person's own immune system turns against parts of the body that it is designed to protect, causing inflammation and damage to various body tissues.

When it comes to a clinical diagnosis for arthritis, several techniques are used. Health care professionals often employ the use of blood and urine tests, as well as reviewing your past medical history and family history of arthritis when diagnosing the disease. In addition, the use of x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging may be called upon to better diagnose the disease. Arthritis is a disease that is quite unpredictable; those who are afflicted with it often experience little trouble with the disease for an extended period of time, and experience completely unexpected "flares" of pain. For that reason, when arthritis is diagnosed, doctors often set up a treatment plan based off of the pain experiences that you’ve been having over a long period of time. Just because the disease may have tapered off for a little while does NOT mean that the problem is disappearing. Arthritic pain ebbs and flows, and it’s important to realize that even small amounts of pain should be properly treated. If you suspect that you may have arthritis, it’s important to speak to your doctor to discuss possible treatments.



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Did You Know?

What is glucosamine? Its full name is glucosamine sulfate, and it is a natural substance that is found in the joints. Beside your own joint fluid, glucosamine can also be found in certain sea creatures, including the shells of crabs, lobsters, and shrimps. Scientists can also create glucosamine in the laboratory. Our bodies create our own steady supply of glucosamine that it uses to create and repair lost cartilage. Cartilage is important because it keeps bones from rubbing against each other and absorbs the shock and force of the impact.