Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints. There are over 100 different forms of arthritis. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease), a result of trauma to the joint, infection of the joint, or age. Other arthritis forms are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and related autoimmune diseases. Septic arthritis is caused by joint infection.
The major complaint by individuals who have arthritis is joint pain. Pain is often a constant and may be localized to the joint affected. The pain from arthritis is due to inflammation that occurs around the joint, damage to the joint from disease, daily wear and tear of joint, muscle strains caused by forceful movements against stiff painful joints and fatigue.
What causes arthritis?
Some of the risk factors that can cause arthritis include:
Exactly how much heredity or genetics contributes to the cause of arthritis is not well understood. However, there are likely genetic variations that can contribute to the cause of arthritis.
Cartilage becomes more brittle with age and has less of a capacity to repair itself. As people grow older they are more likely to develop arthritis.
Because joint damage is partly dependent on the load the joint has to support, excess body weight can lead to arthritis. This is especially true of the hips and knees that can be worn quickly in heavier patients.
Joint damage can cause irregularities in the normal smooth joint surface. Previous major injuries can be part of the cause of arthritis. An example of an injury leading to arthritis is a tibial plateau fracture, where the broken area of bone enters the cartilage of the knee joint.
Workers in some specific occupations seem to have a higher risk of developing arthritis than other jobs. These are primarily high demand jobs such as assembly line workers and heavy construction.
Some High-Level Sports
It is difficult to determine how much sports participation contributes to development of arthritis. Certainly, sports participation can lead to joint injury and subsequent arthritis. However, the benefits of activity likely outweigh any risk of arthritis.
Illness or Infection
People who experience a joint infection (septic joint), multiple episodes of gout, or other medical conditions, can develop arthritis of the joint.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis It is an aging phenomenon. It can be the consequence of demanding sports where joints may be injured or obesity, which places increased load on weight bearing joints, If you were an athlete or dancer in high school or college, you may be wondering why your knee or hip aches when you climb out of bed in the morning. It can strike earlier in life with athletes or those who suffered an injury in young adulthood. Osteoarthritis in the hands is frequently inherited and often happens in middle-aged women.
Osteoarthritis is most common in joints that bear weight — such as the knees, hips, feet, and spine. It often comes on gradually over months or even years. Except for the pain in the affected joint, you usually do not feel sick, and there is no unusual fatigue or tiredness as there is with some other types of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. That means that the immune system attacks parts of the body. For reasons that aren’t clear, the joints are the main areas affected by this malfunction in the immune system. Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to severe joint damage and deformities. About one out of every five people who have rheumatoid arthritis develop lumps on their skin called rheumatoid nodules. These often develop over joint areas that receive pressure, such as over knuckles, elbows, or heels.
Infectious arthritis (Septic Arthritic) Infectious, or Septic , arthritis is infection of one or more joints by microorganisms. Normally, the joint is lubricated with a small amount of fluid that is referred to as synovial fluid or joint fluid. The normal joint fluid is sterile and, if removed and cultured in the laboratory, no microbes will be detected. With septic arthritis, microbes are identifiable in an affected joint fluid.
Most commonly, septic arthritis affects a single joint, but occasionally more joints are involved. The joints affected vary somewhat depending on the microbe causing the infection and the predisposing risk factors of the person affected. Septic arthritis is also called infectious arthritis.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is the most common form of arthritis in children and adolescents. (Juvenile in this context refers to an onset before age 16,idiopathic refers to a condition with no defined cause, and arthritis is the inflammation of the synovium of a joint.)
JIA is an autoimmune, non-infective, inflammatory joint disease of more than 6 weeks duration in children less than 16 years of age. The disease commonly occurs in children from the ages of 7 to 12, but it may occur in adolescents as old as 15 years of age, as well as in infants. It is a subset of arthritis seen in childhood, which may be transient and self-limited or chronic. It differs significantly from arthritis commonly seen in adults (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis), and other types of arthritis that can present in childhood which are chronic conditions (e.g. psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis). Aetiopathology is similar to rheumatoid arthritis but with less marked cartilage erosion, and joint instability and absent rheumatoid factor.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of arthritis depend on the type.
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Joint may hurt during or after movement. Joint may feel tender when you apply light pressure to it. Joint stiffness may be most noticeable when you wake up in the morning or after a period of inactivity. Not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion. Hear or feel a grating sensation when you use the joint. These extra bits of bone, which feel like hard lumps, may form around the affected joint.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis can develop gradually or very quickly. Signs and symptoms can vary greatly between individuals and can range from mild to very severe. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterised by periods of remission (absence of symptoms) and exacerbation or “flare-ups” (when symptoms are problematic). Sometimes there is an obvious cause for a flare-up (physical stress, illness, emotional) but usually there is no obvious trigger.
Fatigue can be one of the most difficult symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis for people to manage. Other symptoms may include:
Pain in the joints
Swelling (often accompanied by warmth and redness) of the joints
Stiffness in the joints (generally worse in the mornings and after periods of rest)
Loss of appetite (with resulting weight loss)
changes to the skin and nails
Anaemia can also occur, often compounding the feeling of fatigue and the feeling of being generally unwell.
Because rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition (ie, it can have an effect on the whole body) symptoms may be similar to having the flu.
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause problems with other parts of the body. These include:
Inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis)
Inflammation of the linings of the lung or the heart
Dryness of the eyes and mouth.
Infectious arthritis (Septic Arthritic) Septic arthritis include fever, chills, as well as joint pain, swelling, redness, stiffness, and warmth. Joints most commonly involved are large joints, such as the knees, ankles, hips, and elbows. In people with risk factors for joint infection, unusual joints can be infected, including the joint where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the breastbone (sternum). With uncommon microbes, such as Brucella spp., atypical joints can be infected, such as the sacroiliac joints.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms of JIA are often non-specific initially, and include lethargy, reduced physical activity, and poor appetite. The first manifestation, particularly in young children, may be limping. Children may also become quite ill, presenting with flu-like symptoms that persist. The cardinal clinical feature is persistent swelling of the affected joint(s), which commonly include the knee, ankle, wrist and small joints of the hands and feet. Swelling may be difficult to detect clinically, especially for joints such as those of the spine, sacroiliac joints, shoulder, hip and jaw, where imaging techniques such as ultrasound or MRI are very useful.
Pain is an important symptom. Morning stiffness that improves later in the day is a common feature. Late effects of arthritis include joint contracture (stiff, bent joint) and joint damage. Children with JIA vary in the degree to which they are affected by particular symptoms.Children may also have swollen joints.
Having arthritis will mean something different for each person, but how severely and for how long you are affected will depend on the type of arthritis you have. You may also find that there are some good days and some bad days.
Generally most people will feel a level of:
Some people may feel frustrated as these symptoms can lead to a loss of strength and grip, making it harder to move around and carry out daily tasks. This does not mean you need to give up having an active lifestyle, but you may need to make some changes to your way of life.
Living with arthritis
Arthritis is not a life sentence, but it can be life changing. Simple daily tasks can become difficult and painful, while managing family life and juggling work can be exhausting.
Adjusting isn’t always easy. But there are many people, services, products and benefits that can help.
Getting medical help and treatment for arthritis is important, but so is helping yourself – and it’s never too early to start. Although there is no cure for most forms of arthritis, there is a lot you can do to minimise the effect of arthritis on your everyday life.