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what is arthritis

WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?

 

Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age.1

There are many different types of arthritis – over 100, with different causes and treatment methods.2

Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).2

OA vs RA – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

 

OSTEOARTHRITIS causes cartilage – the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint – to break down.1 RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints.1

THE DIFFERENT EFFECTS ON A JOINT 3,4

DifferentEffects

OSTEOARTHRITIS 1

 

OA is the most common type of arthritis and involves wear-and-tear damage to the cartilage in the joint. 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.

OsteoarthritisJoint
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OA?

search WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OA?

Symptoms of OA can include:5

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • A grating or grinding sensation (crepitus) when your joint moves
  • Swelling (either hard or soft)
  • Not being able to use the affected joint normally, which can make it difficult for you to do certain activities (for example climbing stairs)

The most commonly affected joints are your hands, spine, knees and hips.6

alertWHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF OA?

The exact cause is not known, but several things are thought to increase your risk of developing OA, including:7

  • jointInjury

    JOINT INJURY

    Overusing your joint when it has not had enough time to heal after an injury or operation

  • otherConditions

    OTHER CONDITIONS

    (secondary arthritis)

    OA can happen in joints severely damaged by a previous or existing condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis

  • age

    AGE

    Your risk of developing the condition increases as you get older

  • familyHistory

    FAMILY HISTORY

    OA may run in families

  • obesity

    OBESITY

    Being obese puts excess strain on your joints, particularly those that bear most of your weight, such as your knees and hips

  • sex

    SEX

    OA is more common in women than in men

diagnosisDIAGNOSIS OF OA

OA is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms and the physical signs that your doctor finds when examining your joints.5

There is no blood test for OA, although your doctor may suggest you have one to help rule out other types of arthritis.5

In addition, your doctor may suggest imaging scans, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound, which can detect problems within your joint that may be causing your symptoms.8,9

diagnosis of oa

treatment_of_oaTREATMENT OF OA

OA is a long-term condition and cannot be cured.7 A number of treatments are available which aim to reduce the pain and improve function.7,8 The main treatments for the symptoms of OA include:10

  • Lifestyle measures – such as maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly
  • Medication – to relieve pain
  • Supportive therapies – to help make everyday activities easier

Mild symptoms can sometimes be managed with simple measures, including:7

  • Regular exercise
  • Losing weight, if you’re overweight
  • Wearing suitable footwear
  • Using special devices to reduce the strain on your joints during your everyday activities

If your symptoms are more severe, you may need additional treatments such as pain relief medicines and a structured exercise plan with a physiotherapist.7,10

The type of pain relief medicine that your doctor recommends will depend on the severity of your pain and other conditions or health problems that you may have.10

In a small number of cases, where these treatments do not help or the damage to the joints is particularly severe, surgery may be considered to repair, strengthen or replace a damaged joint.7

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS 1

 

In RA, your body’s immune system attacks the lining of your 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 the cartilage and bone within the joint.

rheumatoidArthritisJoint
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF RA? WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF RA?

search WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF RA?

The main symptoms of RA are:4

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling, warmth and redness
  • Stiffness, especially first thing in the morning or sitting still for a long time

With RA, you can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in your body6, resulting in other signs and symptoms:11,12

  • Loss of energy
  • High temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Firm lumps, called rheumatoid nodules, which grow beneath the skin in places such as the elbow and hands

alertWHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF RA?

There are several things that may increase your risk of developing RA, including:4,13

  • familyHistory

    FAMILY HISTORY

    There is some evidence that RA can run in families, although the risk of inheriting it is thought to be low as genes are only thought to play a small role in the condition

  • sex

    SEX

    More common in women than men, which may be because of the effects of the hormone oestrogen, although this link has not been proven

  • smoking

    SMOKING

    Evidence suggests that if you smoke, you have an increased risk of developing RA

  • obesity

    WEIGHT

    If you are overweight, you have a significantly greater chance of developing RA than if you are at a healthy weight

diagnosisDIAGNOSIS OF RA

A diagnosis of RA is based on your symptoms, a physical examination and the results of x-rays, scans and blood tests.4

Some of the main blood tests used include:14

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – which can help assess levels of inflammation in your body
  • C-reactive protein (CRP) – another test that can help measure inflammation levels
  • Full blood count (FBC) – this test can be used to help rule out other possible causes of your symptoms as well as provide an indicator of your general health
  • Rheumatoid Factor – this test measures the proteins that the immune system produces when it attacks healthy tissue
BloodTests

Scans may be done to check for joint inflammation and damage and can help tell the difference between types of arthritis; they can also be used to monitor how your condition is progressing over time.14

treatment_of_oaTREATMENT OF RA

Once diagnosed, treatments for RA aim to reduce inflammation, ease your symptoms like pain or swelling, and prevent long-term joint damage.12 No single treatment works for all, and you may even need to change your treatment over time.12 There are a variety of treatments available for RA.4 The earlier that intensive treatment is started, the more likely it is to work.4 The three main ways to treat RA are:4

  • Medication

    These may include painkillers, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biological medications and steroid treatments (also known as corticosteroids).4,15
  • Physical therapies

    Your doctor may also refer you to other services that might be able to help you with your RA symptoms –physiotherapy, occupational therapy or podiatry.15
  • Surgery

    Sometimes, despite taking medicines, your joints may still become damaged. If this happens, surgery may be needed to help restore your ability to use your joint. Surgery may also be recommended to reduce pain or correct deformities.15

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ARTHRITIS AND ASSISTANCE WITH THE MEDICATIONS THAT ARE RIGHT FOR YOU – SPEAK TO YOUR DOCTOR

referenceREFERENCES:

  1. Mayo Clinic. Arthritis. Symptoms and causes. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350772?p=1. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  2. Healthline. Arthritis. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/arthritis. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  3. Medical News Today. The stages of osteoarthritis of the knee. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/310579. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  4. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis Research UK. Available at https://www.versusarthritis.org/media/12748/rheumatoid-arthritis-information-bookletv2.pdf. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  5. Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Research UK. Available at http://www.southend.nhs.uk/media/188067/osteoarthritis.pdf. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  6. NHS. Arthritis Overview. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/arthritis/. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  7. NHS. Osteoarthritis Overview. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoarthritis/. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  8. American College of Rheumatology. Osteoarthritis Patient Fact Sheet. Available at https://www.rheumatology.org/Portals/0/Files/Osteoarthritis-Fact-Sheet.pdf. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  9. Mayo Clinic. Arthritis. Diagnosis and treatment. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350777?p=1. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  10. NHS. Osteoarthritis. Treatment and support. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoarthritis/treatment/. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  11. NHS. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Symptoms. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms/. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  12. American College of Rheumatology. Rheumatoid Arthritis Patient Fact Sheet. Available at https://www.rheumatology.org/Portals/0/Files/Rheumatoid-Arthritis-Fact-Sheet.pdf. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  13. NHS. Rheumatoid arthritis. Causes. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/causes/. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  14. NHS. Rheumatoid arthritis. Diagnosis. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/diagnosis/. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

  15. NHS. Rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/treatment/. Accessed: 15 September 2020.

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