The warning signs that inflammation presents are redness, swelling, heat and pain. The cartilage is a padding that absorbs stress.
What is arthritis? The term arthritis literally means inflammation of a joint, but is generally used to describe any condition in which there is damage to the cartilage. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. The warning signs that inflammation presents are redness, swelling, heat and pain. The cartilage is a padding that absorbs stress. The proportion of cartilage damage and synovial inflammation varies with the type and stage of arthritis. Usually the pain early on is due to inflammation. In the later stages, when the cartilage is worn away, most of the pain comes from the mechanical friction of raw bones rubbing on each other.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is caused by the wearing out of the cartilage covering the bone ends in a joint. This may be due to excessive strain over prolonged periods of time, or due to other joint diseases, injury or deformity. Primary osteoarthritis is commonly associated with ageing and general degeneration of joints. Secondary osteoarthritis is generally the consequence of another disease or condition, such as repeated trauma or surgery to the affected joint, or abnormal joint structures from birth. Uric acid crystal build-up is the cause of gout and long-term crystal build-up in the joints may cause deformity. Some people may have congenital abnormalities of the joints-for example, Perthes’ disease of the hips-that cause early degeneration and subsequently cause osteoarthritis.
Predisposing factors to Osteoarthritis of hip
Some conditions may predispose the hip to osteoarthritis, It tends to affect people as they get older and particularly affects joints that have to take a lot of stresses and strains.
- A previous fracture that involved the hip.
- Growth abnormalities of the hip (such as a shallow socket) may lead to premature arthritis.
- Some childhood hip problems later cause hip arthritis (for example, a type of childhood hip fracture known as a Slipped Epiphysis; also Legg-Perthe’s Disease).
- Inactive lifestyle- Obesity (overweight) Your weight is the single most important link between diet and arthritis, as being overweight puts an additional burden on your hips, knees, ankles and feet.
Predisposing factors to Osteoarthritis of Knee
Abnormalities of knee joint function resulting from fractures of the knee, torn cartilage and torn ligaments can lead to degeneration many years after the injury. The mechanical abnormality leads to excessive wear and tear – just like the out-of-balance tyre that wears out too soon on your car.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
There are more than 150 different forms of arthritis. Symptoms vary according to the form of arthritis. Each form affects the body differently. Arthritic symptoms generally include swelling and pain or tenderness in one or more joints for more than two weeks, redness or heat in a joint, limitation of motion of a joint, early morning stiffness, and skin changes, including rashes.
How can a doctor diagnose arthritis?
Doctors diagnose arthritis with a medical history, physical exam and x-rays of the hip. There is no blood test for osteoarthritis.
What you can do?
- Consult a doctor who will determine the type of arthritis you have.
- Rest the joint until the pain subsides to prevent further inflammation.
- To ease the pain or stiffness of the joint, apply heat on the joint for about 15 minutes once or twice a day using a hot water bottle, towel or an infrared lamp.
- Take painkillers or anti-inflammatories, as recommended by your doctor.
- If you are overweight, try to reduce weight to lighten the load on weight-bearing joints.
- Participate in regular exercise.
What your doctor can do for you?
There is no cure for arthritis, so beware of ‘miracle cures’. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine. They may recommend occupational therapy or physiotherapy, which includes exercises and heat treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be suggested, such as a hip or knee replacement. The type of surgery will depend on your age and severity of the disease. In the elderly with severe arthritis, joint replacement can give good results.
Initial treatment for osteoarthritis of the hip or knee is conservative, consisting of rest, avoidance of vigorous weight bearing activities, and the use of non-narcotic analgesic and or anti inflammatory medications. With worsening symptoms a cane or a knee brace may be helpful. For more severe symptoms, an injection of cortisone into the joint is frequently advised and can be quite helpful. When conservative measures have been exhausted and are no longer helpful, and the arthritis has become disabling, surgery may be recommended.
Treatment of osteoarthritis focuses on decreasing pain and improving joint movement, and may include:
- Exercises to keep joints flexible and improve muscle strength • Many different medications are used to control pain, including corticosteroids and NSAIDs. Glucocorticoids injected into joints that are inflamed and not responsive to NSAIDS.
- For mild pain without inflammation, acetaminophen may be used.
- Heat/cold therapy for temporary pain relief
- Joint protection to prevent strain or stress on painful joints
- Surgery (sometimes) to relieve chronic pain in damaged joints
- Weight control to prevent extra stress on weight-bearing joints
Does exercise really help those who have arthritis?
Exercise is very important because it increases lubrication of the joints and strengthens the surrounding muscles, putting less stress on joints. Exercise in heated swimming pools-hydrotherapy-can bring enormous relief from pain and stiffness. Also studies have shown that exercise helps people with arthritis by reducing joint pain and stiffness and increasing flexibility, muscle strength and energy. It also helps with weight reduction and offers an improved sense of well-being.
Can special diets treat arthritis?
But what if you have arthritis – are diet and nutrition still such a simple matter? Can what you eat cure your arthritis? Can food prevent it from occurring? Are there foods that can cause your arthritis to ‘flare’ or go into remission? What role do vitamins and nutritional supplements play in the treatment of arthritis? Will losing (or gaining) weight help ease your symptoms? Will taking powerful anti-arthritic medications affect your appetite or your ability to eat certain foods? These are the sorts of questions that people with arthritis often ask, and they’re valid questions. Some questions “Can what you eat cure your arthritis?” have simple answers “No”. Some questions “Are there foods that can cause your arthritis to ‘flare’ or go into remission?” aren’t so straightforward. “Perhaps…” Most of what you need to know about diet and nutrition is common sense; healthy eating is pretty much the same for anyone, whether you have arthritis or not. But there are exceptions.