Arthritis is the joints biggest enemy. Our joints cushion the impact of our daily living, such as walking, carrying items, bending and playing. Arthritis affects the joint in different ways depending upon the type of arthritis. The exact cause of the over 100 types arenít all known but some are brought on by injury, disease or just the passing of time.
Arthritis is the number one cause of chronic disability in the United States. It currently affects 40 million Americans in one form or another. Most, but not all, of the 100 types of arthritis can be categorized into one of three basic types; osteoarthritis, inflammatory and traumatic.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type that affects approximately 16 million. This is a non-inflammatory degenerative disease that causes the joint cartilage to breakdown which eventually allows the bones to grind together. The causes of osteoarthritis is unknown.
Inflammatory arthritis is a chronic disease that happens for unknown reasons. Often the immune system will mistakenly attack the tissue. A form of inflammatory arthritis that is common is Rheumatoid arthritis. In Rheumatoid arthritis the body attacks the synovium of the joint. This is a sack of fluid that acts as a cushion between the joints. The synovium becomes inflamed which causes chemicals to be released that in turn thickens the synovial fluid. The damage to the synovium causes pain and swelling that leads to damage to the cartilage.
Traumatic arthritis is the culprit in a serious hip, knee or shoulder injury. This can be a fracture or severe traumatic event that leads to a condition called avascular necrosis. In this condition the blood supply to the bone is cut off and as a result the surrounding cartilage begins to deteriorate. The most common area to occur is the hip.
Symptoms of arthritis are dependent upon the type that you have. Being able to correctly describe the type of pain you are experiencing will help point your doctor in the right direction for early diagnosis and treatment. Pain can be continuous or intermittent; after an activity or exercise or just if youíve been resting; you may have pain in one spot or feel it all over your body. Daily chores can become a challenge.
Early diagnosis and treatment tailored to the type of arthritis you have is important to decrease the functional loss you may experience as the disease progresses. Only a doctor can diagnose arthritis and give you the proper treatment options to keep you functional and as pain free as possible. There are arthritis specialists called Rheumatologists who are physicians who have intimate knowledge of the arthritis condition and the appropriate therapies and treatments for each individual case.
If you suspect you have arthritis check with your physician early. The more quickly you find the root cause of the pain and discomfort the more quickly you are able to begin therapies which will decrease your pain and increase your mobility.