Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes swelling and pain that can range from mild to excruciating. Although more than two hundred diseases are classified under the name “arthritis,” most arthritic conditions fall into one of two categories: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is by far the more common, with more than 1.5 million cases per year in Nigeria and 80 percent of people over fifty. The pain and the inflammation occur when the cartilage that protects the bones from rubbing against each other wears down.
Not surprisingly, the disease usually appears in joints that do most of the body’s hard work: the knees, the hips, the spine, and the hands. Although injury or the normal wear and tear of life often bring on cartilage damage, it can be made much worse by food allergies, poor diet, and mineral deposits in the joints.
For some people, the effects of mental and emotional stress aggravate arthritis pain. Changes in the weather—usually, rain and falling barometric pressure—often cause arthritis flare-ups
If left untreated, arthritis can cause irreversible damage to the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is quite another story. Most experts believe it is caused by an inappropriate immune reaction, in which white blood cells attack the cartilage in the joints; it can go on to destroy the bones themselves and even the muscles and the skin. It is often exceedingly painful and can cripple its sufferers.
Experts disagree on the causes of RA, but it seems clear that genes, food allergies, bacterial or viral infection, stress, excess acid in the body, and the presence of certain antibodies in the blood all play a role. Many of the complementary therapies used for osteoarthritis are also effective in reducing pain and slowing the spread of rheumatoid arthritis.
Underlying factors for both of these conditions may include poor digestive function (intestinal permeability), hormone imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, and lifestyle factors.
Symptoms Of Arthritis
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis. Your symptoms may also feel worse in the morning when you get out of bed or upon standing up after you’ve been resting.
Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- limited range of motion that sometimes goes away after movement
- clicking or popping with bending
- muscle weakness around the joint
- instability or buckling of the joint
- bony growths in the fingers
- grating or scraping feeling in the knees
Other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- morning stiffness that can last 30 minutes or more
- more than one affected joint
- onset in smaller joints like feet and hands
- same joints on both sides of the body are affected
- low-grade fever
- inflammation of the eyes and mouth
- inflammation of the heart muscle and blood vessels
- low red blood cell count
Causes Of Arthritis
Arthritis may be caused by:
- wear and tear of a joint from overuse
- age (OA is most common in adults over age 50)
- autoimmune disorders
- genes or family history
- muscle weakness
Complications Of Arthritis
When left untreated, symptoms of arthritis may worsen and affect your day-to-day life. Below are some of the possible complications associated with this condition:
- Reduced mobility. As arthritis progresses, you may experience less comfortable movement. This can interfere with your daily routine and may keep you from your favorite activities as well as socializing.
- Possible weight gain. This is attributed to decreased movements, as well as discomfort that keeps you from exercising.
- Increased risk of metabolic disorders. Being overweight with an inflammatory condition like arthritis may increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
- Inflammation in other areas of your body. If your arthritis is attributed to an autoimmune disease like RA, the inflammation can spread and affect your skin, eyes, blood vessels, and lungs.
- Risk of falls. According to the Arthritis Foundation, people with OA are more likely to experience falls and possible fractures. This is primarily caused by related muscle weakness, but dizziness from pain medications can also lead to falls.
- Decreased ability to work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 60 percent of people with arthritis are of working age. Arthritis may affect your ability to move around in the workplace or even get from your mode of transportation to your job site.
- Effects on mental health. Arthritis may increase the risk of anxiety and depression due to ongoing pain, inflammation, and social isolation.
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