Facts On Arthritis

Arthritis refers to a group of over 100 different conditions which involves damage to the joints of the body. The disease affects more women than men. Arthritis can also affect other parts of the body causing pain, loss of movement and swelling. One of the most prevalent chronic health problems in the United States, arthritis is also one of the main causes of work disability in the country. It affects people of all ages including children.

In 2006, the number of American people with arthritis or chronic joint symptoms was about 46 million, nearly 20% of the adult population.

Arthritis can be of various types. The most prevalent form of the disease is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage covering the ends of bones in the joint undergoes decay, which causes pain and loss of movement because bones rub against each other. In rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease, the joint lining becomes inflamed as part of activity of the body's immune system. This disease affects mostly women, and causes serious disability.

Gout, which affects mostly men, is a painful disease that affects small joints, especially the big toe. However, gout can be brought under complete control using appropriate drugs and proper diet. There is also an uncommon form of gout called psedogout caused by the formation of rhomboid crystals of calcium pyrophosphate. Ankylosing spondylitis is a kind of arthritis in which the bones of the spine grow together because of inflammation. Juvenile arthritis is a general term that includes all types of arthritis that occur in children.

Children may develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or childhood forms of lupus, ankylosing spondylitis or other types of arthritis. Another type of arthritis is fibromyalgia that affects mostly women. It causes stiffness and pain in the tissues that support and move the bones and joints. Systemic lupus erythematosus or lupus is also a serious disorder that inflame and damages joints and other connective tissues throughout the body. Scleroderma, a condition linked with the connective tissue, causes a thickening and hardening of the skin.

Arthritis symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness in joints or the inability to move a joint normally. In rheumatoid arthritis, joints can become red, warm, swollen and painful making a person feel sick. Among other symptoms are unexplained fatigue, fever, loss of weight and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms often last more than two weeks. Arthritis is diagnosed on the basis of the pattern of symptoms, medical and family history, physical examination, X-rays, laboratory tests etc.

There are two types of risk factors: non-modifiable and modifiable. The former cannot be either prevented or changed and the latter can be prevented or changed by an individual. With the help of proper management, it is possible for people with arthritis to live healthy and independent lives. A doctor who is an arthritis specialist can be of great help in evaluating and treating those types of arthritis that need specialized drug therapy.

But patients should also remember that self-management plays a major role in dealing with arthritis pain and disability. They must learn about their disease and take part in their own care. When a patient works with health care professionals, he/she can offer his/her suggestions during decision making and achieve a sense of control.