Arthritis is a Latin-based word meaning joint inflammation. Today this represents over 100 different conditions ranging from the less serious tendonitis to the debilitating and often painful rheumatoid arthritis.
The inflammation associated with arthritis is actually the body’s natural response to injury, alerting those affected to the “troubled area.” Warning signs include redness, swelling, a sensation of heat, and pain. Arthritis can affect those of all ages. While genetics, lifestyle choices and activities all play a role in arthritis, research studies continue to try and identify more specific causes to facilitate early diagnosis and prevent severe tissue damage.
While arthritis generally causes inflammation around the joint, the end result is joint and musculoskeletal pain, stiffness and swelling. There are more than 100 joints connecting the body’s bones, allowing broad range of motion. The various types of joints responsible for range of motion include: the “ball-and-socket,” such as those of the hips and shoulders; saddle joints, which connect the thumb to the hand; hinge joints such as those in the fingers; and pivot joints, such as those which allow wrist movement. The bones and joints are bound together by ligaments and covered with a smooth, slick substance called cartilage.
Cartilage is a strong buoyant material that serves as a type of shock absorber allowing the bones to glide easily over one another and cushion adjoining bones. A joint cavity, which is enclosed by a flexible capsule with an inner lining called the synovium, lies between the bones – providing space for the bones to move. The synovium produces a lubricating fluid that nourishes the joint.
Prompted by any number of conditions, arthritis begins with inflammation within a joint. It can initially impede optimal joint function and eventually, if untreated, cause severe tissue degeneration within the joint resulting in joint deformity. Some types of arthritis can cause irreversible damage to bones, organs and skin.
While it is well known that the risk of arthritis increases with age, nearly three out of every five patients diagnosed are under the age of 65.
The most common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, post traumatic and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, occurring when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. It generally affects joints in the hands, knees hips and spine. Post traumatic arthritis is a form of OA that is prompted by an injury.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease. The immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, causing inflammation. Primarily attacking the joints, RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In a joint with RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness (lack of balance), and deformity. RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.