There are 100 Different Forms of Arthritis
The name given for painful joint disease. More than 100 different forms of this disease affect more than 43 million Americans and 20% of the adult population. It is one of the most common health problems in the United States. Pain and stiffness in the joints may mean one thing—arthritis.
This disease can cause painful swelling and inflammation of the joints and is experienced by millions of people around the world. In the United States alone, it is estimated that by 2030 there will be nearly 70 million affected by this condition.
Cases can be mild or severe, short-term or permanent. The most familiar form of this inflammatory disease is osteo arthritis. It takes place when the cartilage that supports the joints wears out, a process that occurs over a long period. Individuals who workout too much or over-train have increased risk of developing this ailment. It is one of the leading cause of disability. Nearly 7 million people in the U.S., including 20% of people who are unable to perform major life activities such as working or housekeeping because of this disease.
Sufferers endure more days in severe pain, experience more days with limited ability to perform daily activities, and have more difficulty performing personal-care routines. As with other chronic pain conditions, it also has negative effects on mental health.
The Definition of RA
Rheumatoid arthritis, known as Still’s disease when it affects children, is a condition that causes inflammation of joints and associated pain, swelling, and stiffness. RA causes the body’s own immune system to attack joint tissue, breaking down collagen, cartilage, and sometimes bone or other organs. This chronic disease varies between people and fluctuates over time, often marked by symptoms that improve only to re-emerge later.
In some cases RA is mild and lasts only a few months (this kind of RA is called type 1), while in others the disease becomes progressively complicated by disability and other health problems, lasting many years.
Rheumatoid arthritis most often affects the wrist and finger joints but can also affect joints in the feet and throughout the body. Anyone can be affected however women are more likely to develop these symptoms, which most often begin between the ages of 20 and 30. The causes are not yet understood, but many effective strategies have been developed to manage its symptoms.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms and Signs
The main symptom is joint stiffness in the morning, often in the hands or feet. Stiffness that persists for an hour or more, or swelling and pain that lasts for more than six weeks, may be indicative of RA. Joint discomfort is typically symmetrical, i.e. both hands will hurt or feel stiff, not just one. Early symptoms also may include fever, excessive tiredness, or pea-sized lumps called “nodules” that can be felt under the skin. Other possible symptoms include anemia, appetite loss, and the accumulation of fluid in the ankles or behind the knee. In children, symptoms may include shaking chills and a pink rash may follow the characteristic painful and swollen joints.
Why It Is so Painful
How joint pain and the destruction of cartilage are related is not fully understood. Cartilage itself does not cause pain because there are no nerve structures in cartilage to transmit pain signals. It is most likely, that the pain is caused by the irritation of other tissues in and around the affected joints. This irritation may be caused by chemical-messenger substances, such as prostaglandin E2, that are associated with the disease process. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce pain because they inhibit the production of prostaglandins.
Other Conditions That Can Cause Pain
Pain and stiffness similar to rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can be caused by many other conditions. Even if injury or infection can be ruled out, anything from bunions to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome can cause pain. Only a medical professional can identify many sources of joint pain, because similar symptoms can result from other autoimmune diseases, from serious conditions such as cancer, or from many other kinds of inflammatory disease.
The Causes of RA
The causes although not fully understood, are important contributing factors that need to been identified. The self-destructive immune response of rheumatoid arthritis may be caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers. Changing hormones may also play a part in the disease, possibly in response to an infection from the environment.
More than one gene has been linked to risk for rheumatoid arthritis. Specific genes may increase a person’s chance of developing the disease, and could partially determine how serious his or her condition will be. However, since not all people with a genetic predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis actually have the disease, other factors play an important role.
A specific environmental trigger has not yet been found, but some research suggests that infection by a virus or bacteria leads to RA in genetically susceptible people. This does not mean that its contagious. People appear to have more antibodies in the synovial fluid in their joints, suggesting that there may be an infection.
Low levels of hormones from the adrenal gland are common in people with RA, but how hormones interact with environmental and genetic factors is unknown. Hormone changes may contribute to the progression of the rheumatoid arthritis. The best course of action to take sometimes isn’t clear until you’ve listed and considered ALL of your alternatives.