How To Stay Active And Independent While Living With Arthritis

Arthritis can be frustrating. Painful and debilitating arthritis can last for days. How happy would you be if you could stop your arthritis pain right now and feel better all day? Knowing the type of disease can give you the right answer. What is arthritis?

Arthritis includes more than 100 different diseases and conditions. The word arthritis means "joint inflammation". When a joint becomes inflamed, it causes pain and also restricts the movement of the affected joints. For many people, arthritis has a major impact on their lives. Arthritis comes second to heart disease as a cause of work incapacity. Arthritis limits daily activities such as walking, dressing and bathing for more than 16 million Americans. Each year, arthritis causes 750,000 hospitalizations and 36 million patient visits. Arthritis is not just a disease of the elderly. Nearly two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including nearly 300,000 children. Arthritis affects children and people of all races and ethnicities, but is more common in women and the elderly.

The disease can affect different parts of the body. Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the lining of the joints becomes inflamed as part of the activity of the immune system. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most serious and debilitating types, which affects women. Arthritis is two to three times more common in women than men and usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 50. Both parts of the body are affected at the same time. Symptoms of RA vary from person to person, but may include: 

Joint tenderness, warmth and swelling. Pain and stiffness lasting more than an hour in the morning or after a long rest.

Joints and joints of the wrist and fingers closest to the hand. Fatigue, occasional fever and feeling unwell.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage that covers the ends of bones and joints deteriorates, causing pain and loss of movement as the bones begin to wear down. Osteoarthritis usually affects the joints of the fingers, knees, hips and spine. Osteoarthritis is more common in the elderly because they use their joints for a long time. Using the same joint over and over again or using it over time can make osteoarthritis worse. Young people can also suffer from arthritis. Athletes are at risk because they overuse their joints. People with jobs that require the same movements over and over are also at risk. Joint injuries increase the risk of arthritis and joint disease later. Being overweight can accelerate arthritis in the knees, hips and spine. The most common symptom of arthritis is pain in the affected joint after repeated use. Joint pain gets worse later in the day. There may be swelling, warmth and cracking of the affected joint. Symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary. Some patients may become depressed because of their symptoms. On the other hand, others may have remarkably few symptoms despite serious joint damage appearing on x-rays. Symptoms can also be long-lasting. These 2 types have different causes, risks and effects on the body, but they share a common symptom: persistent joint pain.

What causes arthritis? Primary osteoarthritis is often associated with aging. With aging, the water content of cartilage increases and the protein content of cartilage decreases. Repeated use of the joint over the years irritates and wears down the cartilage causing joint pain and swelling. Eventually, the cartilage begins to wear away, breaking away or forming small holes. Inflammation of the cartilage can also cause new bone spurs (spurs) to form around the joint. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows an injury to the joint. For example, a young person may injure his knee while playing football. Then, years after it is clear that the knee has healed, he may have arthritis in the knee joint. RA is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system is not working as it should; it attacks healthy joint tissue, causing inflammation and joint damage. Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of chronic arthritis that affects joints on both sides of the body (such as hands, wrists or knees). This indicator helps to distinguish between RA and other types of arthritis. Arthritis usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, although it can develop at any age. It is associated with the HLA DR4 marker - so family history is an important risk factor. The disease affects women: men in a ratio of 4:1.

Other conditions can also cause arthritis. Some include: 

Gout, in which crystals accumulate in the joints. It usually affects the big toe.