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Understanding and Treating Joint Discomfort

Arthritis is a very common joint disease that often occurs as we age. There are many types of arthritis, but they result in inflammation and /or deterioration of bones and joints. And not matter what specific type of arthritis you have, they all cause varying degrees of pain and discomfort. More than half of all adults over 65 are troubled by some form of arthritis.

What are the causes of arthritis?
The main cause in the elderly is degeneration of the cartilage, which leads to bone to bone contact and, in turn, osteoarthritis. Another factor is injuries sustained throughout one's lifetime can lead to degenerative arthritis. To some extent there is a hereditary factor (but not a single gene inheritance). For example, a woman whose mother has/had osteoarthritis in the small joints of the fingers has a higher risk of developing a similar condition herself.

Types of Arthritis
It’s important to keep in mind that arthritis is not a single disease, the term arthritis encompasses over 200 diseases that negatively impact the function of a person’s joints. In the case of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, it goes beyond the joints and affects various organs as well.

The most common type of arthritis is Osteoarthritis. It is characterized by joint stiffness and pain that can range from mild discomfort to a debilitating condition. The pain and discomfort is often caused by the loss of cartilage that lines and smooths the joints. Osteoarthritis erodes cartilage in joints, leaving bones to rub against each other. The hands, knees, hips, and spine are the most affected skeletal areas affected by this type of arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most painful and disabling forms of this group of diseases. It attacks all ages and its cause remains largely unknown. Women are three times as likely as men to be affected by RA. The severity of the disease varies, as does response to treatment. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the conditions in Scholgren's syndrome.

Gout is a very painful form of arthritis. Gout is now the most common inflammatory arthritis in males.  An attack occurs when deposits of uric acid form in the connective tissue and/or joint spaces. These deposits lead to swelling, redness, heat, pain, and stiffness in the joint. Gout attacks often follow eating foods like shellfish, liver, dried beans, peas, anchovies, or gravy. Gout is most often a problem in the big toe, but it can affect other joints, including the ankle, elbow, knee, wrist, hand, or other toes. Swelling may cause the skin to pull tightly around the joint and make the area red or purple and very tender.

Arthritis Signs and Symptoms
Although arthritis is not a curable condition, the sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner appropriate treatment can begin that can hopefully prevent additional joint damage. Signs that indicate you may have arthritis include:

  • Early morning stiffness
  • Swelling in joints
  • Reduction in joint flexibility
  • Pain, tenderness or warmth in any joint

Relief of pain is the primary goal in treating arthritis. Treatments include: It is best to talk to your physician about what options are best for you.