Arthritis
Arthritis

                              Basics

Arthritis is an "umbrella term" for a number of conditions affecting the joints (places where two bones come together). Arthritis symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling and inflammation of the joints. There is often damage to the joint cartilage (the smooth tissue that covers the ends of bones and helps to prevent the bones from rubbing against each other). This damage can cause weakness and difficulty moving the joint. It can even cause visible deformity. Many joints may be affected, or it can be just one.



There are many different types of this condition, although they all share the arthritis symptoms described above. The most common is osteoarthritis. It is believed to be caused by repetitive movements of a joint or by injury to the joint. Joints affected often include fingers, wrists, knees, shoulders, and hips.

Another common type is rheumatoid arthritis. This is an auto-immune disease, in which the body's immune system attacks the tissue around the joints, causing inflammation and pain. It can cause inflammation around other organs of the body as well, so it can be quite serious.

Arthritis can have a huge impact on a person's life. People may have difficulty walking or using their hands. People with severe arthritis can have difficulty with the most basic activities, such as feeding themselves, brushing their teeth, tying their shoes, and so on. Obviously this has a strong emotional impact on them, as well.

Before going over arthritis treatment, lets discuss prevention.

Prevention

It is not always possible to prevent arthritis. There are a few things you can do, however.

When a joint is sore, don't overwork it. Listen to your body and exercise the joint gently but don't put too much strain on it. Osteoarthritis often develops in joints that have sustained an injury.

Watch your weight. Being overweight is a huge risk factor for arthritis. It puts extra strain on your joints and can cause joint damage over time.

If you have arthritis symptoms, seek treatment early. This may prevent the condition from getting worse.

Treatment

Arthritis treatment can consist of many things. Most treatments are aimed at relieving the arthritis symptoms and are not considered a cure.

Some treatment options include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs. These are meant to relieve the swelling around the joint and can reduce stiffness. They are fairly effective for treating mild arthritis symptoms but may not do the job in severe cases.
  • Steroid injections. These are injections given in the joint to treat the inflammation. They may be used if anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective.
  • Physical therapy. Specific exercises may be done to strengthen the muscles and loosen stiff joints.
  • Surgery. If other methods fail, surgery may be recommended. Surgery may be done to remove or repair damaged tissue in the joint, or a total joint replacement may be recommended. This is sometimes looked at as a cure, although it is possible to develop symptoms in that joint again even after surgery.
  • Pain medication. Both oral medication and topical medications may be used to relieve some of the pain caused by arthritis.
  • Natural medications and treatment. When traditional arthritis treatment doesn't work, or if they want to avoid painful steroid injections or surgery, many people turn to natural treatments. These are gentler on the body and don't carry the risks that are common with typical medical treatment.
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When To See Your Doctor

If you have arthritis symptoms, see your doctor for a diagnosis and to discuss arthritis treatment options. Ask about natural treatments if you prefer.







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