Arthritis: A Break Down

Arthritis Is More Common Than You Think

When you hear the word arthritis the most popular association is of an overused body part on someone older than yourself. Regardless of being 10 years old, 25 or over the age of 50, arthritis can happen to anyone at any age. Arthritis is much more than a generalized name for having a sore and stiff body from old age. In fact, there are more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children are living with some variation of arthritis in the United States.

The truth is, there are dozens of types of arthritis. Arthritis is so much more than a blanket diagnosis for anyone suffering from joint pain or related conditions. A simple definition of arthritis is a condition in which one or more of your joints are inflamed. Some of the most common symptoms involve swelling, pain, soreness, stiffness, and limited movement of a joint. The symptoms can come and go or remain as chronic conditions, progressing over the years to become more severe and debilitating. In severe cases, arthritis can cause permanent alterations to the joint.

Four Main Types of Arthritis

Degenerative Arthritis

Degenerative arthritis is a form of noninflammatory arthritis.

The most common type of degenerative arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA). Degenerative arthritis, also known as, noninflammatory arthritis, which can be preventable or more easily managed compared to other types of arthritis. The most common type of degenerative arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA).

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage at the end of the joint bones wears away, causing them to rub together. Over time, the joints can lose their strength and ability to work properly due to pain and stiffness, weakening the joint itself resulting in permanent joint damage and chronic pain. In severe enough cases, joint replacement surgery is required to relieve the symptoms of OA.

Inflammatory Arthritis

The most common types of inflammatory arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis.

When your immune system is working at its best, it will use inflammation to get rid of or prevent disease or infections. However, this same safety feature can cause the body to use inflammation to attack healthier parts of itself, which can damage any joint or major organs of the body. This form of arthritis is believed to be a mix of genetics and environmental factors. Environmental factors (such as smoking) can trigger inflammation.

Because of the way that inflammation interacts with the body, they are often referred to as autoimmune arthritis. Early diagnosis and a more aggressive treatment plan are crucial to prevent permanent joint damage with inflammatory/autoimmune arthritis conditions. Since the body is using a healthy self-defense strategy against itself, the inflammation can cause damage to internal organs which makes treatment extremely critical.

Remission is the goal with this type of arthritis. The normal treatment for inflammatory arthritis is corticosteroids or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to suppress the immune system.

Infectious Arthritis

Organisms can cause infections in that can lead to arthritis.

There are many types of organisms that can affect the body and result in infectious arthritis. These organisms can come from food poisoning or contamination (salmonella or shigella), through sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia or gonorrhea), or a blood infection through shared needles or transfusion (hepatitis C). When the body is infected with an organism that affects the joint, they need to be treated with antibiotics to clear out the infection quickly but can result in a chronic form of arthritis.

Metabolic Arthritis

Some forms of arthritis come from the body’s inability to regulate natural wastes.

When the body breaks down purines  (a substance found in human cells and many foods), it creates a compound called uric acid. Some individuals have higher levels of uric acid, so much so that the body simply cannot rid itself of it quick enough. The buildup of excess uric acid can form needle-like crystals in the joint, causing spikes of extreme joint pain and swelling. The most common variation of metabolic arthritis is Gout. A gout attack can come and go through episodes or become chronic if the uric acid levels are not managed and reduced.

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