Arthritis is a term that refers to around 200 rheumatic diseases affecting the joints and surrounding tissue. Three of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. These conditions result in inflammation, pain, and stiffening of the joints which can make normal functioning difficult, and in severe cases impossible. Sufferers usually rely on pain medication to get relief. But most afflicted individuals also benefit from other forms of therapy such as physical therapy, joint supplements, lifestyle and dietary changes, and relaxation techniques. However, there are also specialized therapies depending on the type of arthritis you have. To learn about the different forms of arthritis and available treatments, keep reading.
Basic Facts about Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis occurring in 10% of men and 13% of women aged 60 years or older. The condition is believed to be a result of normal wear and tear of joint tissue in combination with age-related changes affecting the joints. The disease permanently changes the structure of the joint cartilage, usually in the joints that endured the most pressure in the course of one’s lifetime. Unlike other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis does not cause inflammation. Instead, the main symptom of osteoarthritis is pain and joint stiffening.
Mitigating Osteoarthritis Symptoms
Doctors will often recommend pain medication in addition to exercising, weight loss, and bone supplements to help mitigate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. The most commonly recommended supplements for osteoarthritis are chondroitin and glucosamine which are the building blocks of healthy joint cartilage. Although there is no conclusive evidence that these supplements truly work to prevent further degradation of joint tissue, taking them is generally considered safe and possibly effective. Novel treatments also include strontium, duloxetine, ranelate, and NGF antibodies that a study published in Current Opinion in Rheumatology found to be promising.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – An Autoimmune Disease
One of the hallmarks of rheumatoid arthritis is severe inflammation. For this reason, doctors tend to focus on reducing inflammation in affected patients. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is different from osteoarthritis in several ways. First, RA is considered an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the joints, causing inflammation and subsequent degradation. Secondly, the disease can affect any age group but it most commonly affects people between 30 and 60 years of age. And lastly, RA affects the synovial fluid surrounding the joints while osteoarthritis directly affects the cartilage. Other than that, RA can also affect other tissue in the body such as the eyes, heart, and lungs.
Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
The first in line treatment for RA involves controlling inflammation as quickly as possible to reduce the damage to the joints. These treatments are medications like NSAIDs, corticosteroids, DMARDs, biologics, and JAK inhibitors. These drugs can help reduce inflammation and modify disease progression in people with RA. Since RA is an autoimmune disorder, finding the right treatment is difficult as we still know very little about autoimmune disorders. However, studies show that stress, genetics, and hormones could likely play a big role in many autoimmune diseases, including RA. This is why relaxation techniques and lifestyle changes are often recommended to RA sufferers.
Gout – A Complex Form of Arthritis
Gout is painful condition most commonly affecting the joint at the base of the big toe. The condition is a result of elevated levels of uric acid in the blood which causes crystalline deposits in joint tissue. Why this happens is still poorly understood but may have a lot to do with one’s genetics, overall health, and poor lifestyle choices. The prevalence of gout varies greatly across the globe with Oceanian countries having a 10% incidence of gout and only 0.5% in most Asian countries. The disease is most commonly seen in men, but women are more susceptible to developing the condition after menopause.
Treatment involves NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and special medication for gout called Colchicine. During a gout attack, patients are recommended to take any medication they were prescribed as soon as possible. Other than that, keeping the toe elevated and cool is also important to help control the inflammation. Long-term treatment options to prevent further gout episodes involve controlling uric acid levels in the blood. This can involve taking medication that controls uric acid production or changing one’s diet and lifestyle. Weight loss is also recommended for overweight gout sufferers in order to help reduce the pressure on the joints.
Although we tend to think of arthritis as one disease that causes joint pain and stiffness, arthritis is actually an umbrella term covering a vast range of rheumatic conditions. Nevertheless, only three of the 200 arthritis conditions occur in the majority of the world’s population. Treating these conditions involves reducing pain, inflammation, and slowing down disease progression with specialized medication. Additionally, patients are often encouraged to make healthy lifestyle and dietary changes in order to help improve their outcomes.