What’s Causing Your Arthritis?

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Arthritis is a commonly occurring condition in India, affecting approximately 210 million people. Discover more about this disorder, how it’s caused, its types, risk factors, symptoms, complications and treatment.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a disease in which the joints of the body get inflamed, tender and swollen. It is a broad term and includes almost 200 conditions that affect the joints, the tissues surrounding the joint as well as other connective tissues.

What are the types of arthritis?

Depending on the cause, it is divided into different types:

  • Degenerative arthritis: This includes age-related changes that lead to wear and tear of the cartilage. Osteoarthritis is one form of degenerative arthritis
  • Autoimmune arthritis: In this, the body’s immune system fails to recognize its own cells and attacks healthy tissue, thinking that they are foreign invaders. Rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and juvenile arthritis are all forms of this condition
  • Infectious or septic arthritis: This can develop as a result of any kind of infection (these can be bacterial, viral or fungal infections) in the joint  
  • Reactive arthritis: This develops as a result of an infection in another part of the body. Most common infections include Chlamydia or gastrointestinal tract infections like Salmonella, Shigella etc. 
  • Metabolic arthritis: This can develop due to some kind of metabolic disturbances (for example, accumulation of excess uric acid in your joints in case of gout)
Arthritis

Are there any risk factors for arthritis?

This disease develops due to many reasons – some of them are non-modifiable, while others are often under our control.

Some non-modifiable factors include:

  • Age: The older you get, the greater your risk of developing this condition
  • Gender: Women are at higher risk of developing certain types of arthritis like osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), while gout is more common in men 
  • Family history: If you have someone in your family with a positive history of the disease, for example, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and ankylosing spondylitis, you’re at a greater risk of developing it as well

Some modifiable factors include:

  • Body weight: Your odds of developing osteoarthritis of the knee are greater if you are overweight or obese
  • Infections: Infections such as chlamydia, shigella, salmonella etc. can lead to reactive or septic arthritis
  • Occupation: Work that involves repeated knee bending or squatting can increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis of the knee 

Depending on the underlying cause, you can experience additional symptoms as well.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose this condition based on a combination of symptoms, examination findings and additional tests such as:

  • Laboratory tests: These include blood tests (uric acid levels in case of gout, rheumatoid factor in case of rheumatoid arthritis etc.), urine testing and analysis of the joint fluid 
  • Imaging such as X-ray, CT, MRI etc.

How is arthritis treated?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and focuses on reducing your pain, minimising the amount of damage to your joints and improving your physical function and quality of life.

Your doctor will advise you to:

  • Give sufficient rest to your joints
  • Undergo physiotherapy to strengthen your joint as well as the muscles surrounding the joint
  • Take medications that include:
  1. NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  2. Steroids
  3. DMARDs 
  • Undergo surgery, in severe cases

What can I do to manage my arthritis?

You can manage your condition on your by making a few simple lifestyle changes:

  • Be active and change your physical activity depending on your symptoms
  • Maintain a healthy weight to decrease the stress on joints, especially your weight-bearing joints like the hip and knee joints
  • Regularly follow up with your doctor to prevent your disease from getting worse

Which foods should I avoid if I have arthritis?

Certain foods that may aggravate your pain include:

  • Fried foods
  • Processed sugars
  • Highly processed and refined carbs
  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Dairy products
  • Salt and preservatives

What are the best foods to eat if I have arthritis?

Foods that are shown to help relieve pain include:

  • Fatty fish
  • Garlic
  • Walnuts
  • Berries
  • Spinach
  • Grapes

Is it true that people with arthritis are more likely to develop complications from the flu?

People with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or SLE are more likely to develop flu-related complications than most people.

Some complications include:

  • Sinus infections
  • Ear infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
Dr. Aditi
WRITTEN BY

Dr. Aditi

An MBBS and a medical reviewer with a penchant for healthcare articles and blogs. Read her contributions and writings about various healthcare topics.

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