What comes to mind when you hear the word arthritis? If you are like me a couple of years ago, what could come to mind would probably be that it’s a disease that affects “old people” and as such you probably also may not be bothered with the diagnosis cause like I said earlier, it is an old people sickness. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, Arthritis is in no way a Old People Disease.
How do I know this? Arthritis in simple language is basically inflammation of the joints which leads me to the question, does an inflammation of the joints necessarily have anything to do with one’s age? Absolutely not, however, it is more common amongst elderly folks but can also affect teenagers and even children.
I personally have had a few symptoms from when I was a kid up until now and I remember correctly that anytime I had one of my episodes my mom would say things like, I hope you don’t have arthritis at an early stage or for a child, you are already exhibiting signs of early arthritis and as you may have guessed correctly, all of those definitely came with loads of pills to make sure I was perfect.
Now that we have established that this disease affects both young and old, let us look further into the nitty gritties shall we?
Arthritis is a term used to describe conditions that affect the joints, tissues that surround the joint as well as other connective tissues. It is also termed a Rheumatic condition. Rheumatic conditions tend to involve pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in and around one or more joints. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Certain rheumatic conditions can aslo involve the immune system and various internal organs of the body.
Symptoms of rheumatic diseases include inflammation (redness or heat, swelling, pain) and loss of function of one or more of the body’s support structures. They especially affect joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles.
Types and causes of Arthritis
Before we talk about the causes of arthritis, it is pertinent to note that there are three major types of arthritis and they are;
- Rheumatoid arthritis
The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis involves wear-and-tear damage to your joint's cartilage. If you don’t already know what a cartilage, the Cartilage is the smooth elastic tissue that covers and protects the ends of long bones at the joints and nerves. Cartilage cushions the ends of the bones and allows nearly frictionless joint motion, but enough damage can result in bone grinding directly on bone, which causes pain and restricted movement. This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can be hastened by a joint injury or infection.
Osteoarthritis also affects the entire joint, it causes inflammation of the joint and also causes changes in the bones and deterioration of the connective tissues that attach muscle to bone and hold the joint together.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and damage throughout your body. A person with Rheumatoid arthritis will essentially experience symptoms on both sides of the body, that is, if a joint is affected in one of your arms or legs, the same joint in the other arm or leg will probably be affected too
In rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, a tough membrane that encloses all the joint parts. This lining (synovial membrane) becomes inflamed and swollen. The disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.
Gout is a common type of arthritis that causes intense pain, swelling, and stiffness in a joint. It usually affects the joint in the big toe. Gout attacks can come on quickly and keep returning over time, slowly harming tissues in the region of the inflammation, and can be extremely painful. It is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men, and although it is more likely to affect men, women become more susceptible to it after the menopause.
Here are essential risk factors to look out for as far as the Arthritis disease is concerned
- Family history: Some types of arthritis run in families, meaning you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder. Your genes can make you more susceptible to environmental factors that may trigger arthritis.
- Age: The risk of many types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout — increases with age.
- Sex: Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout, another type of arthritis, are men.
- Previous joint injury: People who have injured a joint are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint.
- Obesity: Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. People with obesity have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
Severe arthritis, particularly if it affects your hands or arms, can make it difficult for you to do daily tasks. Arthritis caused by excessive weight on the joints can keep you from walking comfortably or sitting up straight. In some cases, joints may become twisted and deformed. Below are a few tips that could help prevent an arthritis diagnosis:
- Make it a habit to stay physically fit.
- Through imbibing healthy eating habits you can better manage your weight.
- Ensuring a regular check up with your doctor can also prove useful.
- As much as possible, try not put unnecessary pressure or stress on your joints.
I know having regular appointments with your doctor may feel like stress or just unnecessary but I can’t tell you enough what you could be saving yourself from with just a single visit, don’t wait till you start feeling sore or till an attack takes you unawares. Also get as much information as you can about your family’s history especially if you have ever experienced any of the above mentioned symptoms. Prevention they say is better than cure, I say, prevention is just common sense which I want to believe you my dear reader are not lacking.