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Signs, Symptoms & Treatment for Arthritis

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Arthritis is the term used to refer to a condition caused by inflammation of the joints. If you feel a sharp pain in the hip comes and goes, the chances are that it could be arthritis. The disease could affect one or multiple joints, and there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with other causes and treatment methods. However, the two most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which are the ones that we’ve discussed below.

Causes

Arthritis is most commonly seen in adults over 65, but it could also affect children, teens, and younger adults. Arthritis is more common in women than men and in people who are overweight. Osteoarthritis (OA) is mainly caused by the wear and tear of cartilage tissue in a patient. Cartilage is a firm but flexible connective tissue in the joints that protects them by absorbing the pressure and shock created when you move and stress them. When this stress becomes too much, the cartilage starts to wear out. As the cartilage begins to wear out, there is less of it to absorb pressure and shock, so it eventually becomes painful any time there is stress applied to the joints.

It is worth pointing out that the cartilage in a human body is designed to absorb enormous amounts of pressure, so they just don’t get worn out quickly like the brake discs on your car. In fact, in most cases, arthritis is caused by an infection or injury to the joints, which exacerbates this natural breakdown of cartilage tissue. The risk of developing osteoarthritis is higher for people with a family history of the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder. This is a condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. In this case, the body mistakes the joints as foreign matter and thus releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells. These attacks affect the synovium, a soft tissue found in the joints that produce a fluid whose function is to nourish the cartilage and lubricate the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the synovium that will invade and destroy a joint. It can eventually lead to the destruction of both bone and cartilage inside the joint.

While scientists still haven’t found the exact cause of the immune system’s attacks, they have discovered genetic markers that increase your chances of catching Rheumatoid arthritis almost five times. This could mean that Rheumatoid arthritis is hereditary and can be passed from one generation to another through genes.

Symptoms

The symptoms of arthritis tend to develop over time, but it wouldn’t be strange if they appeared suddenly. The most common symptoms include pain in the hip comes and goesjoint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Patients sometimes experience a limited range of motion, and you may start to see some redness of the skin around the joint. Most people experience the worst of these symptoms early in the morning or when they have been immobile for a while, for example when you finally wake up from the couch after watching Netflix for hours.

In the case of Rheumatoid arthritis, you may feel unusually tired even when you haven’t been active. Loss of appetite can also be experienced due to the inflammation the immune system’s activity causes. You may also become anemic — meaning your red blood cell count decreases — or have a slight fever. It is worth pointing out that if Rheumatoid arthritis is left untreated, it could cause joint deformity in severe cases.

Diagnosis

If you’re not sure whether the symptoms experienced to indicate that you have arthritis, then the best move would be to consult your primary physician. As much as they may not have what it takes to treat your arthritis (assuming that is the case), they will still be very helpful in recommending you to the best specialists and providing good advice on what you should do. They may also perform a physical exam to check for fluid around the joints, warm or red joints, and limited range of motion in the joints. That should be able to give a clearer picture of what exactly is happening.

However, suppose your symptoms are severe and you are almost sure that it is arthritis (maybe because of a history of arthritis in the family). In that case, you can schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist first. This could lead to a faster diagnosis and treatment.

The common diagnostic tests for arthritis involve extracting and analyzing inflammation levels in your blood and joint fluids. This should help the doctor to know what type of arthritis you might be suffering from. Blood tests that check for specific types of antibodies like RF (rheumatoid factor), anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide), and ANA (antinuclear antibody) are also common diagnostic tests. Some doctors even go to the extent of using imaging scans such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans. This is usually done just to clear the possibility that your symptoms might be caused by other things such as bone spurs.

Treatment

In most cases arthritis is chronic so there isn’t a defined way to cure it. However, treatment is still possible and aims to reduce the pain experienced by the patient and prevent further damage to the joints. In this case, different treatment methods work for different people. Some find heating pads and ice packs to be soothing, while others use mobility assistance devices, like canes or walkers, to help take pressure off sore joints.

Medication, surgery, and physical therapy are three of the most popular ways to treat arthritis. Medication is mainly used for pain management but it rarely helps with reducing inflammation, so you might be forced to take the meds for the rest of your life. Surgery, on the other hand, is used to replace the joint with an artificial one and is mostly used on hips and knees. The last one, physical therapy, involves exercises that help strengthen the muscles around the affected joint. This is a core component of arthritis treatment and one of the best ones to help with recovery.

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