|May is Arthritis Month|
|Friday, 18 May 2012 15:39|
In honor of National Arthritis Month, the National Weekly looks at the most common types of arthritis.
This chronic disease affects some 27 million Americans and is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage – the part of a joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement. As cartilage deteriorates, bones begin to rub against one another. This can cause stiffness and pain that make it difficult to use that joint. Osteoarthritis can also damage ligaments, menisci and muscles. Over time, OA may cause a need for joint replacements.
There are two types of OA – primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is generally associated with aging and the "wear and tear" of life. As you age, the more likely you will experience some degree of primary osteoarthritis. Primary OA however is a disease, not part of the normal aging process. Secondary osteoarthritis, in contrast, tends to develop relatively early in life, typically 10 or more years after a specific cause, such as an injury or obesity.
Osteoarthritis occurs most often in knees, hips and hands. Other joints, particularly the shoulders, can also be affected. OA rarely affects other joints, except as a result of injury or unusual physical stress.
The pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis can make it difficult to do daily activities including working, sports or even moving with ease.
Usually joints affected by osteoarthritis ache or become stiff first thing in the morning, and during or after use. They may also be stiff after periods of inactivity. It's important to remain physically active despite initial pain. Exercise keeps joints moving, which helps them stay lubricated and builds strength in the surrounding muscles supporting the affected joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
This is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease that affects 1.3 million Americans. For unknown reasons, rheumatoid arthritis happens when the immune system – designed to protect human's health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria – instead attacks the body's own tissues, specifically the synovial membrane, which is the thin lining of the joints. As a result, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain and inflammation that occurs throughout the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning it cannot be cured. Most people with RA experience intermittent bouts of intense disease activity, called flares. For some, the disease is continuously active and gets worse over time. Others enjoy long periods of remission. Evidence shows that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is the best way to avoid joint destruction, organ damage and disability.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis vary from person to person and can change on a daily basis. The joints may feel warm to the touch and the patient might notice a decreased range of motion, as well as inflammation, swelling and pain in the areas around the affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is also symmetrical, meaning if a joint on one side of the body is affected, the corresponding joint on the other side of the body is also involved. Because the inflammation is systemic, the patient is likely to feel fatigued and may become anemic, lose appetite and run a low-grade fever.