It’s a misconception that arthritis can only be experienced by old people. Some as young as babies suffer from it. It’s no laughing matter either. It’s a debilitating condition and can even lead to disability.
Do you have arthritis?
Arthritis is a compound of words meaning inflammation of the joint. The common indicator of arthritis is musculoskeletal and joint pain because of swollen joint lining. The person will also notice that the painful spot is inflamed, stiff and slightly warm. Because it primarily affects the joints, the pain can be felt in the knees, hip, fingers, spine and others. The patient might also have fever and rash and even lose weight and have difficulty breathing. Physical exam, imaging scans, and blood tests will help determine what type of arthritis you have.
What are the types of arthritis?
There are at least a hundred types of arthritis. The symptoms range from mild to crippling. Some even affect the organs like the heart and kidneys.
Osteoarthritis: The most common is osteoarthritis or the deterioration of the cartilage. When the ends of bones create friction, there is no cushioning and that causes the pain.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Inflammatory arthritis on the other hand is caused by an over-reactive immune system. It inflames the joints mistaking it for infection. Inflammation is supposed to be a form of protection for the body. Rheumatoid arthritis is one type of this autoimmune disease.
JIA: Arthritis in children is called juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It’s a form of an autoimmune disease that causes damages in the joints and might lead to permanent disability.
Who are at risk?
There are many factors that can contribute to developing arthritis. Age is just one, but genes and lifestyle can also increase the risk. Injuries and the nature of work can also increase the risk.
Anyone can have arthritis.
How can I feel better?
If not managed properly, it can cause damage to the joints, ligaments and tendons and bone erosion. That is why some people who have been suffering for years have knobby joints. A rheumatologist can assist you during treatments. Some cases need joint orthopedic surgery. For more complicated cases that affect other organs or parts of the body, other specialists may be called in.
Lifestyle Changes: Patients are often advised to maintain a healthy weight to keep the pressure off the joints. Hot and cold therapy can temporarily ease the pain. Painkillers, NSAIDS and steroids can also reduce the pain. Inflammatory arthritis can be treated with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARD.
Therapy and Surgery: Physical therapies include occupational therapy, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy. Joint replacement is done through surgery. It’s an option for those who are suffering from severe damage in the knees, shoulders, hips and elbows and can no longer perform everyday routine.
Where can I get help?
In Singapore, hospitals and organizations have created support groups for those suffering from the disease. The National Arthritis Foundation has resources in their website if you need more information about patient support, arthritis research and treatments.