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Arthritis and Treatments Print E-mail

When you think of arthritis, you likely consider it to be a disease associated with elderly people.  Truth is, men and women of all ages, professional athletes, teenagers and even young children can suffer the pain of arthritis.

The early signs of arthritis can be mild enough.  Joints might crack suddenly, like knees popping when you stand up. Other joints may feel stiff or sound creaky.  Everyday activities as simple as opening a jar can suddenly become difficult and painful.  Arthritis can be treated, but it's important to understand the condition before choosing a medication or treatment method.

"Arthritis" is a general term meaning "joint inflammation".  There are, however, over 100 related conditions or forms of the disease.  Left untreated, arthritis can advance the point where it causes irreparable joint damage.  For this reason, early detection and treatment are vitally important.

There are two different types of arthritis that affect most sufferers:  osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Although both types present with similar symptoms, OA and RA occur for different reasons.

Osteoarthritis occurs when joints are overused or misused.  Remember when your mom told you that cracking your knuckles would cause arthritis?  She was right.  In OA, the cushioning cartilage that protects the joint breaks down over time, and the bones begin to rub together.  People who suffer from OA usually find the condition in their knees, but it can also be found in the hands, hips and spine.  Pain is felt after the disease has significantly progress, and much of the cartilage has been lost.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that occurs when the body's immune system begins attacking the joint tissue.  After many years of research this condition is still not fully understood by the medical community.  RA usually begins in the hands, feet and wrists.  The disease then progresses until the hips, elbows and shoulders are affected.

Both RA and OA present with similar symptoms.  Sufferers feel pain and stiffness along with fatigue, weakness, slight fever and inflamed tissue lumps under the skin.  It's interesting to note that both OA and RA generally develop symmetrically, so the disease affects the same joints on both the left and right sides of the body.  In other words, a person suffering with arthritis in the right knee will also develop the disease in the left knee.

There are significant differences between the two main types of arthritis.  While swelling occurs in both RA and OA, there types of swelling are quite different.  People suffering from OA report a hard and "bony" swelling, while RA patients tend to experience swelling that is softer and "squishier".  The causes differ as well.  Genetics play a role in RA, so children or siblings of RA patients are likely to develop the condition themselves.  On the other hand, OA is typically experienced by those with histories of joint damage caused by injuries or chronic strain.

There is no specific age for arthritis sufferers, however it usually occurs in patients over the age of 45.  While neither gender is immune, a reported 74 percent of OA cases (or just over 15 million) occur in women, while a slightly lower percentage of RA cases occur in women.

There are presently no cure-all remedies for arthritic patients, although there are a variety of pain relief options available including medications, remedies, replacement alternatives and other helpful treatments.  Many people with arthritis find that gentle exercises, good nutrition, sufficient rest and a positive attitude are the best treatments.

Weight loss can also play a role in bringing relief.  People with excess weight often develop OA, especially in the knees.  Losing weight can reduce the odds of developing OA by nearly half.  Regular activity combined with exercise lessens the risk, strengthens joint muscles and reduces joint wear.

It's important that you understand the types, causes and treatments of arthritis.  Education is key to treating and living with arthritis.  Dispel the folk tales and myths that tell you nothing can be done to alleviate the condition.  Thanks to modern medicine and knowledge, arthritis is no longer the crippling disease it once was.  Most patients are able to stay active without the use of canes, wheelchairs, or other mobility devices.

If you suspect you may have developed arthritis, be sure to seek medical advice before beginning any treatment.  Your healthcare provider will help you determine whether your symptoms may be due to another condition such as virus or tendonitis.  Any medical condition can become worse if untreated, so get the advice of a professional.  It's good to know that even if you have developed arthritis, you can still remain active and keep on living life to the fullest.

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