Arthritis signals people in a variety of ways. Joints might
crack suddenly, like knees upon standing. Other joints may
be stiff and creak. Maybe pain occurs, like when trying to
open a jar. What’s it all about? Let’s look at the basics
and learn more.
Arthritis actually means “joint inflammation” and has over
100 related conditions or type / forms of disease. Left
untreated, it can advance, resulting in joint damage that
cannot be undone or reversed. So early detection and
treatment are important.
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis
(OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Although both have
similar symptoms, both happen for different reasons. When
joints are overused and misused, the results can be OA.
What happens is that the cushioning cartilage that protects
the joint breaks down, resulting in the bones rubbing
together. This generally happens in the knees, but can be
found in the hips, spine and hands often, too. And only in
later stages will a person most often feel pain, after
quite a bit of cartilage is lost.
The second type, RA, refers to the body’s immune system
attacking joint tissue. Still not fully understood in the
medical community, this condition most often starts in a
person’s hands, wrists and feet. Then it advances to
shoulders, elbows and hips.
Similar symptoms include pain, stiffness, fatigue,
weakness, slight fever and inflamed tissue lumps under the
skin. And both OA and RA generally develop symmetrically,
i.e. affecting the same joints on both the left and right
sides of the body.
A difference in OA and RA to note is with swelling. With
RA, people report “soft and squishy” swelling. While with
OA, people report “hard and bony” swelling.
There is no specific age for arthritis sufferers. While it
can affect every age group, it seems to focus on those over
45 years of age.
And while neither gender is immune, a reported 74 percent
of OA cases (or just over 15 million) occur with women and
a slightly lower percentage of RA cases occur with women.
People with excess weight tend to develop OA, especially in
the knees when reaching over 45 years of age. However,
losing weight can turn the odds around almost by half.
Regular activity combined with exercise also reduces risk,
strengthening joint muscles and reducing joint wear.
There are many ways to effectively manage arthritic pain
today to find relief. Available are arthritic diets,
exercise programs, over-the-counter and prescription
medications, relaxation and positive emotion coping
techniques. Also available are surgeries, supplements, home
remedies, natural and other alternative therapies. When
arthritis is first suspected, it would be wise to seek a
medical opinion first. Then as time and resources allow,
check out the other options.