Arthritis Symptoms and Causes Expert Insights

Everything You Need To Know About Arthritis Symptoms and Causes

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the joints, joint pain, or joint disease. It is a condition that affects the musculoskeletal system, particularly the joints where two or more bones meet. There are over 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. As per reports, individuals of all ages, races, and genders live with arthritis. It is also considered a leading cause of disability in the U.S. Arthritis is common among women, but certain types of arthritis are more common among older individuals.

This condition is characterized by symptoms such as pain, swelling, and stiffness in joints. It also reduces the range of motion within the joints. Severe arthritis can also result in chronic pain and even difficulty performing daily activities. Certain types of arthritis affect the eyes, heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, and joints.

Stages and Types of Arthritis

There are over 100 types of arthritis. In general, arthritis can be divided into the following categories:

Inflammatory Arthritis

Inflammation is a normal process. It occurs to heal the body and as a defense against viruses and bacteria. In some cases, the process occurs as a response to injuries. However, in the case of inflammatory arthritis, inflammation has no apparent reason to occur.

The condition is characterized by unnecessary inflammation that damages joints causing symptoms such as stiffness, pain, and swelling. Inflammatory arthritis can attack several joints while damaging the joint surface and sometimes the underlying bone. The most common examples of inflammatory arthritis include RA, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Reactive Arthritis, and Psoriatic Arthritis.

Degenerative or Mechanical Arthritis

Degenerative or Mechanical Arthritis describes conditions that damage cartilage covering the ends of the bones. The cartilage gets thinner and rougher. The body remodels bone to compensate for cartilage loss, resulting in osteophytes and unwanted bony growths. The condition is known as osteoarthritis.

Connective Tissue Disease (CTD)

Connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, and cartilage) are responsible for supporting, binding together, or detaching other body tissues and organs. CTD causes joint pain and inflammation in joints and other tissues. The most common examples of Connective Tissue Disease include Sjogren’s, SLE, or Lupus, Scleroderma, or Systemic Sclerosis, and Dermatomyositis.

Infectious Arthritis

A joint may get infected by a bacterium, virus, or fungus. These organisms may enter a joint in various ways. For instance, salmonella and shigella can spread to the joint through food poisoning or contamination while chlamydia and gonorrhea enters the joints through sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection) may be spread through shared needles or transfusions.

Metabolic Arthritis

The condition is caused by excess buildup or accumulation of uric acid in the body. In some individuals, the acid turns into tiny needle-like crystals causing sudden episodes of intense joint pain or a gout attack. Metabolic arthritis may affect a single joint or several joints (hands or toes).

Childhood Arthritis

The condition is classified into many other types of arthritis. The most common type of this condition is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), also referred to as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). Immune system problems may cause this condition in kids.

Although there is no cure, remission is possible which can make the disease inactive. Childhood arthritis should be treated under the guidance of a skilled podiatrist to help a child manage symptoms.

Septic Arthritis

The condition is characterized by a joint inflammation resulting from a bacterial or fungal infection. Most commonly affecting the knee and hip, septic arthritis may develop by the spreading of bacteria (Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, or Neisseria Gonorrhoeae) or other disease-causing microorganisms (Mycobacterium Tuberculosis and Candida Albicans) through the blood to a joint. In some cases, an injury or surgery can infect the joint directly with a microorganism causing septic arthritis.

Certain conditions such as joint disease or damage, HIV, bacterial infection, bacteria in the blood, chronic illness, or disease can increase the risk of developing septic arthritis. Surgical procedures such as artificial joint implants or joint arthroscopy can cause this type of arthritis.

Other risk factors include intravenous (IV) or injection drug use, a recent joint injury, medications that suppress the immune system, and older age can make one more prone to developing the condition.

Septic arthritis is considered a rheumatologic emergency. Hence, it is vital to start the treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, it can lead to rapid joint destruction and eventually death.

Symptoms of Arthritis

The most common symptoms of arthritis include the following listed below:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

Risk Factors of Arthritis

Age: Aging is the major risk factor for arthritis—one’s risk of developing arthritis increases with age.

Gender: Women are more prone to developing arthritis as compared to men. Certain types of arthritis, such as Ankylosing spondylitis and gout, are more common in men.

Genetic: Specific genes are known to increase the risk of some types of arthritis, mainly ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Being Overweight and Obesity: Excess weight puts additional weight and stress on joints. It can trigger the onset and progression of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip.

Physical Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle can increase the severity and progression of several types of arthritis.

Joint Injuries: Sometimes, damage to a joint due to injuries can lead to the development of osteoarthritis in that specific joint.

Smoking:  Excess cigarette smoking is linked to the progression and severity of arthritis, mainly systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Infection: Joints may be infected with several microbial agents increasing the probability of developing various types of arthritis.

Occupation: Certain jobs involving repetitive knee bending and squatting are linked with an increased risk of knee and hip osteoarthritis.

Diet: Lack of nutrition and diet that can increase body weight increases the chances of the onset of arthritis.

Prevention from Arthritis: Studies have revealed that genes make specific individuals more prone to arthritis. However, certain changes can prevent or slow down the progression of this disease. Here are some measures to prevent arthritis:

Diet: As per studies conducted in Sweden, adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet can help prevent the development of rheumatoid arthritis among women. Some of the best sources of Omega-3s include fish, yogurt, nuts and seeds, flaxseed, green tea, soybean, garlic, milk, broccoli, cherries, and canola.

Exercise: Physical activity can prevent arthritis. Medical experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 times a week. This will help improve the flexibility of joints and muscle strength.

Weight Management: Obesity can make arthritis worse due to the excess weight joints have to bear. Maintaining a healthy weight will prevent the onset of arthritis.

Blood Sugar: Diabetes can make one more prone to arthritis. High blood sugar causes cartilage to become stiff and increases its vulnerability to damage from joint use. Diabetes causes inflammation in the body and deteriorating cartilage.

Quit Smoking: Smoke increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, breathing, and circulatory problems. Hence, it is vital to take measures to quit smoking here.

Medical Consultation: In case, you start feeling pain in a joint that does not subside within a few days, visit a doctor for a consultation. Since arthritis is a progressive condition, delaying treatment can result in severe damage to the joint.

The doctor will check your condition and recommend medication to help relieve pain and slow the progression of arthritis. Surgery may also be recommended to relieve pain or repair joints.

Causes of Arthritis

The most common causes of Arthritis include:

  • An injury that can lead to degenerative arthritis
  • An abnormal metabolism increases one’s vulnerability to gout and calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (CPPD).
  • A genetic inheritance
  • Infections such as Lyme disease are responsible for triggering arthritis symptoms
  • An immune system dysfunction
  • Wear and tear of a joint from overuse
  • Obesity
  • Muscle weakness

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Presently, there is no cure for arthritis. Generally, all treatment methods for arthritis are aimed at reducing pain and inflammation and preserving joint function.

You need to observe symptoms such as warm red skin on the joint, stiffness around the joint, pain, and tenderness. Arthritis also limits joint movement. Speak to a doctor to know what these symptoms signify and start the treatment as soon as possible.

The most common age is between 40 and 60. Arthritis is more common in women than men.

According to medical experts, NSAIDs are one of the most effective OTC and prescription drugs for pain caused by arthritis. These medicines help reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling from arthritis.

According to medical experts, heat and cold therapy can be applied to ease symptoms of arthritis. Cold therapy can be used to ease swelling and pain. On the other hand, heat helps relieve stiffness and pain.

Although massage therapy can help alleviate pain and swelling, it is important to add it under the guidance of a medical professional. Regular massage can help alleviate pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis. The therapy improves joint function, sleep quality, and daytime energy levels.

Resting a lot, regardless of the type of arthritis you have, resting a lot can make the condition worse. A little rest combined with gentle exercises will help boost flexibility for arthritic joints.

Some of the most common triggers of arthritis include overdoing an activity or trauma to a joint. Other triggers may include stress, bone spurs, cold weather, repetitive motions, change in barometric pressure, weight gain, and an infection.

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