What is Arthritis?

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Arthritis is often referred to as a single disease entity but it is actually a generic term that is used for a group of over 100 different medical conditions. Each of these conditions collectively affects nearly 46 million adults and over 300,000 children in the United States alone. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis and is most prevalent in people over the age of 60.

The word arthritis comes from the Greek word ‘arthron’ meaning joints in the Latin ‘itis’ meaning inflammation. And, while the majority of osteoarthritis affects individuals over the age of 60, some forms of arthritis can affect people at a very early age.

A specific explanation of arthritis is therefore very difficult to define because of the variety of conditions which fall under the medical term. However, the common thread among these conditions is that they all affect the musculoskeletal system, and most specifically the joints. A joint is an area of the body where two or more bones meet and often are able to articulate, creating the ability for motion.

Inside of each joint are a variety of different structural and physiological ways that the body works to protect each of the bones that meets inside the joints. This protection keeps the bones from rubbing on each other and causing damage. When an individual has an arthritic related joint problem it is often this protective system which are either degenerates or becomes injured.

Within each joint are also ligaments which hold the two bones together. These ligaments act like elastic bands which keep the bones in place when muscles relax or contract. Cartilage covers the surface of the bones to stop the two bones from rubbing directly on each other and the capsules surrounds the joint which has synovial fluid to nourish the joint and the cartilage. When something goes wrong within the system it can cause degeneration or destruction of a specific joint. What goes wrong will depend upon the type of arthritis which an individual suffers from and what the initial cause was.

Symptoms of arthritis can include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to the cartilage system as well. Damage to the cartilage can lead to joint weakness, instability in a visible to form any that can interfere with some basic daily living tasks. For incense, deformities and weakness can interfere with walking, brushing your teeth, climbing stairs, using a keyboard or cutting your food.

Arthritic conditions are not limited, however, just to the joint systems. Although joint involvement can be a major areas which are affected many forms of arthritis can be classified as systemic. This means that the illness or disease will affect the entire body, including internal organs, hearts, kidneys, blood vessels and the eyes.

Arthritic conditions have become the major cause of disability in the United States. It costs employers and insurance companies more than $124 billion a year in medical care and indirect loss wages and production. According to the Arthritis Foundation unless there are specific changes in the medical care and prevention of arthritis, this situation is only continuing to get worse.

Most people start to feel pain and stiffness in their bodies over time. Sometimes their hands, knees or feet begin to get sore or are hard to move. This may or may not be a result of arthritis. While it’s true that arthritis can be painful, there are medical treatment protocols that are now available in order to help individuals feel better and stop the advancement of the disease. Before panicking that you may or may not have arthritis is best to see your primary care physician for an accurate diagnosis. Like many other diseases, early diagnosis and treatment will slow the progression of most types of arthritis and also decrease in the long-term disability and individual may suffer.

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Symptoms of Arthritis

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Arthritis is a global medical term that describes over 100 different conditions, all of which affect the musculoskeletal system of the human body. The word literally means inflammation of the joint and the majority of those 100 conditions are chronic, debilitating and sometimes require significant treatment to keep an individual mobile and healthy.

But those are the rare cases. For the most part, the majority of people diagnosed with arthritis (60%) are diagnosed with osteoarthritis and a little less than 40% are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. However, in addition to the musculoskeletal system and joints some of the diseases can also affect other tissues and organ systems of the body. People of all ages are at risk for these conditions.

In normal circumstances swelling and inflammation are the way in which the body responds to an injury or disease. The body activates the immune system that rushes to the scene to repair tissue or wipe out the cause of the problem. Once that is completed the inflammation goes away and the area is healthy once more.

In an arthritic condition this inflammation, swelling, soreness and sometimes redness and heat do not disappear. Instead it becomes a part of the problem and goes on to damage some of the surrounding healthy tissue that just initiates a cycle. If this inflammation is a part of a malfunctioning immune system where the body starts to attack itself it is called an autoimmune disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of those autoimmune conditions.

Individuals who experience the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis will suffer from swelling and pain in their joints, but because the condition is also systemic they can also experience fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, stiffness in the joints and damage to the heart, lungs, skin, eyes and nerve cells.

Doctors now have treatment protocols that help patients to live more normal lives when these same symptoms and deformities may have left them in a wheelchair just 10 years ago. But, some of the treatment protocols used to correct the imbalances in the body also cause problems. Those who are treated with high doses of aspirin therapy for rheumatoid arthritis may experience Tinnitus, liver or kidney damage.

The symptoms of Osteoarthritis, the second of the more common arthritic conditions, are similar but not systemic. In other words, they individual will have localized symtpoms in their joints and muscular system but not have the kidney, liver, heart, eye and lung issues that those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis will experience.

Osteoarthritis affects more individuals over the age of 50, and the same number of men and women. When an individual first seeks the advice of their primary care physician they may experience noticeable swelling, chills, or fever during their normal activities at the onset of the condition. The pain and swelling will often limit the function of the joints.

The pain of osteoarthritis (OA) is common in the hands, hips, knees or feet and sometimes is present in the spine. Pain in this disease is usually related to activity in the joint and worse at the end of the day or after a period of heavy activity. As the disease continues to progress the pain will be present even at rest.

Individuals will also experience stiffness in their joints that lasts less than an hour after periods of inactivity such as after a night’s sleep or sitting for a long period of time. They will have limited joint motion, tenderness, and possible some joint deformity. And some will experience a condition called ‘crepitus’ or creaking in the joint that is accompanied by pain. They may also have the same crepitus in other joints that don’t have arthritis but it will be painless.

Symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can range from mild to severe. They will depend upon the joint involved, stress to the joints from activity or weight.

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Spinal Arthritis

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Arthritis is a generic medical term used to encompass over 100 different medical conditions that cause pain, swelling and inflammation, primarily in the joints. Arthritis in the spine is one form of arthritis that can be painful and debilitating. It often affects individuals who are age 40 or older. If left untreated these people suffer from physiological problems that result from muscle weakness, as well as depression and anxiety.

The causes of spinal arthritis are, as yet, unknown. There are several theories about the origination of the symptoms but they have not be proven in clinical research. Some believe that they are caused from excess stress, such as weight, weight lifting or excess stress or strain on the job. Others believe that it is a result of imbalances in the body that adversely affect posture that then results in back and neck pain.

Arthritis in the spine results from the breakdown of protective cartilage, lubricating fluid and the development of bone spurs in the spinal joints. A normal and healthy vertebral joint moves easily and smoothly. As we age, the cartilage, in all joints, begins to erode slowly and flake. The wear and tear can account for some of the discomfort and pain.

During this same period the lubricating fluid in the joints may leak and become less effective. The bones begin to come into contact with each other directly which causes the growth of bone spurs in the joints. These spurs cause bone to bone friction and can potentially cause a pinched nerve.

People who suffer from spinal arthritis can also have neurological symptoms because of the area of the body that is affected by the arthritic changes. These neurological symptoms can be tingling, numbness or weakness that are a result of nerve impingement from bone spurs.

The person can also experience a loss of flexibiilty and range of motion, much link the loss of range of motion in other joints which are affected by arthritis. Stiffness will be especially noticeable in the morning or at other times the person has remained stationary for lengths of time.

Spinal arthritis can occur along the entire length of the spine or in specific areas, such as the lumbar sacral area (lower back, most common) or the cervical (neck) area. In the former case the individual will have more pain with sitting or lifting and in the latter case the individual will suffer more pain with motion related to the neck.

Diagnosis of spinal arthritis will occur in much the same manner as other forms of degenerative osteoarthritis. Because there is no definitive cause identified there is also no one test. Most physicians will do a thorough medical history and physical examination as well as imaging studies to determine the extent of the bony damage in the spine. The doctor may recommend blood tests to rule out other conditions as well.

In some cases that have degenerated to the point that the individual cannot function each day the surgeon may consider several different procedures, most of which will remove the bone spurs that initiate the symptoms. A foraminotomy can decompress the intervertebral foramen; a percutaneous discectomy will remove a herniated disc; and a laminotomy will relieve pressure in the spinal canal and the exiting nerves.

In the early stages of the condition over-the-counter medications may relieve the inflammation and pain but as the condition continues to progress patients may be forced to consider other options. One new option is a laser spine surgery designed to reduce pain and inflammation while reducing the risk of decreased range of motion, reducing the risk of anesthesia and immediate results that are faster and less painful to recover from.

Spinal arthritis isn’t a death sentence. In fact, many who suffer will continue to enjoy active and productive lives by managing their symptoms and condition proactively.

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Rheumatoid arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of arthritis which has long-term consequences and leads to the inflammation of the joints and the surrounding tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis is also one of a hundred different arthritic conditions that can affect other organ systems in the body. Researchers know that this is an autoimmune disease that has caused the chronic inflammation. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that happen when the body’s tissue is mistakenly attacked by their own immune system. Individuals who suffer from an autoimmune disease will have antibodies in their blood system targeted to their own body tissue. And, because rheumatoid arthritis can affect multiple other organs in the body, it is also referred to as a systemic illness and sometimes rheumatoid disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the more common rheumatic diseases and affects approximately 1.3 million people in the United States. The disease attacks more women than men but affects people of all races equally. Researchers have found that the disease can begin at any age but more often starts after the age of 40 and before the age of 60. There is some belief that there is a genetic basis for the disorder because in families multiple members can be affected.

Rheumatoid arthritis, or rheumatoid disease, is a chronic illness but some patients can experience long periods of time without symptoms. However, it is also a progressive illness that has the potential to cause joint destruction and eventual disability.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include joint pain, joint swelling, red and puffy hands, nodules under the skin on the arms often referred to as rheumatoid nodules, fatigue, fever, weight loss, morning stiffness that can last for several hours, and joints that are tendered to the touch. In the early stages the arthritis tends to affect the smaller joints, the joints in the wrist, hands, ankle and feet. As time progresses the shoulders, elbows, hips, jaw and neck can also become involved.

In many cases, rheumatoid arthritis affects the body in a symmetrical fashion. This means that if your first finger on your left hand is affected then it is likely that the first finger on your right hand will also be affected. These signs and symptoms can vary in severity and can even come and go. Some patients will experience flare ups which occur after a period of decreased disease activity. This means that they will experience periods when they are in relative remission or have no swelling, pain, difficulty sleeping or weakness. This will alternate with times when the disease has an increased amount of activity, called a flare up.

If the joint is not used for a while it can become warm, tender and stiff. As the lining of the joint becomes inflamed there is more fluid produced and the joint becomes swollen. Patients can also suffer from symptoms that include anemia because the bone marrow fails to produce enough new red blood cells, eye burning or itching, numbness or tingling and paleness. Most of these symptoms occur from the affects of rheumatoid arthritis on other bodily organ systems.

The exact causative factor of rheumatoid arthritis is not yet known. In the past infectious agents, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, have been suspected although none have been proven. It is suspected that certain factors in the environment may also trigger the activation of the immune system in individuals who are already susceptible to an immune mediated disease.

Individuals often present to the physician with swollen and tender joints. The doctor will review the history of symptoms, examine the joints, the skin for rheumatoid nodules and may x-ray certain parts of the body looking for degeneration. The diagnosis is based on a pattern of symptoms, blood work and x-ray findings. Your primary care physician will then recommend you confirm your diagnosis and receive your treatment protocols with a rheumatologist. This is a doctor who has received special training in the treatment and diagnosis of arthritis.

One significant diagnostic criteria is an antibody in the blood system called “rheumatoid factor” that is found in 80% of the patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Another antibody, citrulline antibody, is present in most patients with rheumatoid arthritis and is also useful in the diagnosis. Citrulline antibody is looked for when there is a previously undiagnosed inflammatory arthritis without the presence of rheumatoid factor. Other blood tests which will be used are a sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein.

At this point the rheumatologist will classify the severity of the arthritis based on the results of the diagnostic x-rays. The basis of the treatment protocols will be the classification of severity in order to reduce the pain, inflammation and degeneration.

Rheumatoid arthritis will cause joint damage that patients can find to be debilitating and disfiguring. Some damage may make it impossible to complete daily activities such as dressing, teeth brushing or cooking. At first it may take more energy to complete them but eventually you may not be able to do them at all. Some of the newer treatment protocols are helping to stop joint damage or presented before it occurs in order to continue the activities you enjoy.

At this time there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis although medications can help to reduce inflammation. Physicians will also recommend occupational and physical therapy to teach you how to protect the joints you are using, to prevent and decrease the amount of damage that is being done. Medications may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, disease modifying antirheumatic drugs, immunosuppressants, alpha inhibitors and other drugs which target a variety of inflammatory substances in order to decrease the inflammation in the joints and organ systems.

It is important to continue to be evaluated and treated by a rheumatologist when you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. This helps to prevent as much joint damage as possible, improve the likelihood you will remain functional as you grow older and decrease the necessity for a potential joint replacement surgery.

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Psoriatic Arthritis

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Psoriatic arthritis is one of over 100 different types of arthritic conditions that is often associated with individuals who suffer from psoriasis of the skin. Psoriasis is a chronic condition that affects 2% of the Caucasian population in the United States. Individuals who suffer from psoriasis experience patchy, raised, red areas of the skin that become flamed and scaling. The most common areas of the body that are affected are the elbows, knees, scalp, naval and around the genital areas. About 10% of those who suffer from psoriasis will also develop and associated inflammation of the joints, called psoriatic arthritis.

For the most part, individuals who suffer from psoriasis start to see symptoms prior to the age of 20. The onset of psoriatic arthritis generally happens in individuals in their 40s and 50s. Men and women are affected equally in the skin disease will precede the arthritis and nearly 80% of the patients. If the arthritis begins before the psoriasis the diagnosis can be difficult in the disease may be more severe.

Psoriatic arthritis is a systemic rheumatic disease, which means that causes inflammation in body tissues others in the joints. For instance, the eyes, heart, lungs and kidneys can be affected. Research has shown that persistent inflammation in the joints from psoriatic arthritis can lead to damage that is permanent. Early diagnosis is important to avoid this joint damage.

At this time the exact causes of psoriatic arthritis are not known. While researchers know that individuals who have psoriasis are more at risk, not all individuals with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. At this point researchers are unsure if there is a genetic role in the disease but do know that 40% of those who develop psoriatic arthritis will have a family member who has psoriasis or arthritis. Another theory is that psoriatic arthritis can result from an infection that activates the immune system.

Individuals who suffer from psoriatic arthritis will experience pain in their affected joints, swelling in their joints and joints that it become warm to the touch. Physicians have identified five different types of psoriatic arthritis which will affect the symptoms that individuals experience over time. The mildest form is called asymmetric psoriatic arthritis that affects joints on only one side of the body, or different joints on each side of the body. Most often fewer than five joints are involved.

When pain occurs on both sides of the body and is symmetrical it is called symmetric psoriatic arthritis. More than five joints are often affected and it appears that more women than men are at risk for symmetric psoriatic arthritis. The psoriasis that is associated with this condition tends to be more severe. Another form of psoriatic arthritis is distal interphalangeal joints, which is rare in occurs mostly in men. In this type the smallest joints closest to the nails of the fingers and toes are affected.

Another form is called spondylitis which causes inflammation of the spine as well as a stiffness and pain in the neck, lower back or sacroiliac joints. In approximately 50% of those who present with spondylitis a genetic marker can also be found. In the fifth type is destructive arthritis which a small percentage will experience. This is a severe, painful and disabling form of psoriatic arthritis which destroys the small bones of the hands and leads to permanent deformity and disability.

Aside from the arthritis and changes in the spine, psoriatic arthritis can also inflame other organs in the body. Inflammation of the colored part of the eye can cause iritis. Corticosteroids are sometimes necessary to prevent blindness. Inflammation around the lungs costs as chest pain and inflammation of the aorta can cause leakage of the valves leading to heart failure and shortness of breath.

Doctors have noted that 80% of patients who suffer from psoriatic arthritis will also have pitting and ridges seen in the fingernails and toenails. These particular nail changes are observed in only a minority of patients who also experienced psoriasis but do not have arthritis. There is also an increasing frequency of individuals who have psoriatic arthritis and also suffer from acne.

Your physician or rheumatologists will assess the signs and symptoms you present with and try to rule out other causes of joint pain, such as osteoarthritis. He will often recommend x-rays, tests of the joint fluid, blood tests for sedimentation rate and rheumatoid factor and will perform a thorough physical examination.

Because no causative agent has been discovered there is also no cure for psoriatic arthritis. The physician may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or salicylates to reduce the pain and inflammation of the joints. Individuals who have severe arthritis may also be prescribed disease modifying antirheumatic drugs such as methotrexate.

Currently, there are newer medications on the market that block the inflammatory protein called tumor necrosis factor and are fast becoming the treatment of choice. Three of these medications include Humira, Enbrel and Remicade. On occasion physicians may inject joints which are particularly painful with steroid medications to help reduce the inflammation. In other cases joint replacement surgery may be required in order to allow the individual to continue to be functional. In almost all cases the physician will suggest a mix of rest and exercise in order to help support the joints. Physical therapy will help increase the movement of specific joints and teach individuals the types of exercises which will improve muscle strength, support the joints and reduce the damage.

Future treatment protocols continue to evolve as researchers test different drug therapies and vitamins in the prevention and treatment of psoriatic arthritis. In a recent study it was shown that vitamin D can improve arthritis in individuals who suffer from psoriatic arthritis. Thankfully, the course of this disease is often mild and affects only a few joints. In only rare cases do individuals suffer from severe psoriatic arthritis.

This particular type of arthritis also tends to alternate between flare ups in periods of improvement. Factors that will influence how severe the diseases includes clinical pattern, age at which the symptoms appeared, severity of any skin symptoms and family history of arthritis.

As with any other disease psoriatic arthritis responds best when found early. Therefore early diagnosis and treatment is essential to decreasing the damage done to the joints and improving the overall function in reducing the disability of individuals who suffer from this disease.

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Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis diagnosed in the United States today. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation estimates that nearly 60% of the diagnoses of arthritis can be attributed to osteoarthritis. This is a disease of the joints and not systemic like other forms of arthritis, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

The most common symptom is that the joints become painful and sore after repetitive use and is usually worse at the end of the day. Individuals can also experience swelling, warmth and creaking during use. The joint also becomes painful after long periods of inactivity such as sleep all night or sitting for long periods. The actual symptoms will vary from person to person. Some can become completely debilitated while others may suffer remarkably few symptoms in spite of dramatic changes on their x-rays.

Osteoarthritis is more common in the weight bearing and working joints such as the hip, knees, feet and hands but can also occur in the elbow and shoulder. The risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA) will increase as an individual ages. However, some injuries can also lead to OA in young people, such a shoulder dislocation.

Individuals who develop OA will have pain as their key symptom as well as a decreased range of motion in the joint. The exact cause of the condition hasn’t been identified by physicians do know that it is often related to aging and the degeneration of the cartilage that happens. As we get older the water content in the cartilage will increase and the protein decreases. Eventually the cartilage begins to flake or form crevasses causing the bones to have more contact which in turn results in pain, swelling and inflammation.

Individuals can also experience secondary osteoarthritis from another disease or condition, such obesity, trauma, surgery, congenital abnormalities, gout or diabetes. In fact, next to aging, obesity is the most powerful risk factor for the development of OA in the knees and hips.

At this time there is no conclusive diagnostic test or cure for OA. Blood tests may be performed to exclude other diseases that may have caused secondary OA as well as to exclude other disease that can mimic OA. X-rays will be performed to exclude other causes and assist in a decision about surgical intervention. Arthrocentesis, performed in the doctor’s office, will remove joint fluid and analyze it to exlcude gout, infection and other causes for the symptoms as well as to relieve the pressure of fluid build up.

The doctor may also recommend arthroscopy to see inside the joint space and view damage and abnormalities as well as perform small repairs. A thorough medical history and physical examination will always be included. Doctors will note bony enlargements,s pur formations, and bunions which can help with the diagnosis of OA.

Treatment for OA is joint and symptom specific. Because there is not a cure at this time for degneration of the cartilage doctors will recommend specific protocols that have been found to assist with the inflammation and continued degeneration. Those who are overweight will find significant relief in weight loss. The joint should be rested which is alternated with exercise that is recommended by a physical therapist. The objective of the exercise is to spare the joint but increase the strength of the muscles which support it to reduce the pain and discomfort.

The doctor will begin with over the counter anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain and discomfort. Some individuals find relief from moist heat over the area while others appreciate the use of ice. It is a personal choice that is made based on the results of the treatment.

Individuals who suffer from OA can also benefit from dietary supplement glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. The application of both supplements together in pill form has been found in some research to slow the degneration process and relieve pain. Individuals who choose to take these supplements should wait at least 2 months to see any results from them.

For those who do not find enough relief from glucosamine and chondroitin, another type of dietary supplementation are fish oils. These also have some anti-inflammatory properties. Look for Omega-3 capsules from a reputable supplement company.

Individuals who suffer from osteo arthritis in their hands may also get significant pain relief by dipping their hands in hot wax in the morning. This particular type of treatment can be purchased at local pharmacies or medical supplies stores. The wax can be reused after it hardens and it’s just peeled off and replaced back into the melted wax. Warm water soaks in nighttime cotton gloves can also help if the symptoms of osteoporosis in the hands.

The future for individuals who suffer from osteoporosis continues to brighten each year. Recently researchers discovered medications which have decreased the degenerative effects of individuals who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Research scientists have also found specific medications which are currently FDA approved for other uses now are known to slow the progression of cartilage degeneration in the knees of individuals who suffer from osteo arthritis.

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Juvenile Arthritis

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Formally called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, juvenile arthritis is only described in children under the age of 16. Only in the last 10 years has the word “rheumatoid” dropped from the name. This was done as it was essentially a misnomer because it is not a disease process similar to rheumatoid arthritis but something rather different. Juvenile arthritis also has several other names such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile chronic arthritis and childhood arthritis. And, just as the generic term ‘arthritis’ refers to over 100 different medical conditions, juvenile arthritis is actually a collection of three different diseases that are arthritic in nature.

One of these three disease conditions included under the umbrella term of juvenile arthritis will affect one in every 1000 children in the United States. These children often suffer from pain, stiffness and swelling that will last longer than six weeks and cannot be attributed to an injury or any other illness. In some cases, juvenile arthritis will initially presents after an injury but researchers have found that these injuries are not the cause, only the trigger.

And, while researchers are aware of some of the instances which trigger the onset of juvenile arthritis, they have not found a definitive cause. Presently, researchers believe that there are no genetic factors for juvenile arthritis since it does not run in families and it doesn’t appear that mothers pass it to their children. How the disease will progress appears to be well known but the Why continues to be a mystery.

Because a definitive cause cannot be identified this also does not allow researchers or physicians to identify a single symptom or test that will diagnose juvenile arthritis, a preventative measure to stop it from developing or a curative treatment protocol. In terms of diagnoses, physicians will use a combination of blood tests and x-rays to rule out other diseases, such as rheumatic fever. They also use these tests to gauge the extent of the disease which helps them to more accurately plan the treatment protocol.

The most qualified specialists to treat children who present with arthritis are Rheumatologists. This is a subspecialty of physician who has more years of special education, testing and continuing education which qualifies them to diagnose and treat diseases that cause inflammation in the musculoskeletal system and other bodily organs.

Children who suffer from juvenile arthritis are usually diagnosed in the first six months following the onset of any symptoms. Pauciarticular arthritis is the most common of the forms of juvenile arthritis and accounts for approximately one half of all the cases diagnosed. This condition will affect four joints or less, affects more girls than boys it is usually diagnosed for the age of four. Some of these children will also develop inflammation in the eyes from the disease which can lead to blindness if it is not treated appropriately.

Treatment for Pauciarticular arthritis includes the use of omega-3 fatty acids that decrease the amount of medication the child needs to maintain a level of comfort. Children who go on to develop systemic symptoms are very rare and in some cases the arthritis will spontaneously resolve in several years.

Polyarticular arthritis accounts for 40% of children who are diagnosed with arthritis each and every year. This condition involves at least five joints and will often affect them symmetrically. In other words, if the left hand is affected than the same joints in the right eye and will also be affected. It is more likely to affect a small bones and joints in the body. If the larger joints are affected it will actually change the way in which they grow and will affect the way in which the child walks. When this happens children will develop a limb and are more at risk to developing off to arthritis later in life because of the imbalance in their gait.

Children with polyarticular arthritis will present in the pediatrician’s office with fever, rash and a decreased appetite. Those who are over the age of 10 may also be positive for rheumatoid factor and can suffer a more severe form of the disease.

Of the three forms of juvenile arthritis was the last one affects the least amount of children. Systemic arthritis affects more boys than girls and accounts for only 10% of those diagnosed each year. Systemic arthritis will affect joints and some organs and the children will suffer from skin rashes and inflammation of the internal organs such as the spleen and liver. Children will arrive at the pediatrician’s office complaining of complications from inflammation throughout the body and are usually between the ages of five and 10.

Treatment for any of the juvenile arthritic conditions will center on decreasing pain and inflammation in order to improve the comfort level of the child, improve the growth and development of the bony structures and decrease the progression of the disease. Interestingly, treatment usually includes exercise programs that don’t stress the joints and tissues but help to build muscle in order to protect the joints. These types of exercises can include swimming and stretching. The goal is to release endorphins that decrease the perception of pain.

Juvenile arthritis is actually a catchphrase for a group of three different conditions that cause inflammation, pain and redness in the joints and some organ systems and children. An accurate diagnosis is required in order to prescribe appropriate treatment protocols for the child and plan for his or her future.

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Joint Replacement for Arthritis

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Arthritis is a generic term that encompasses over 100 different medical conditions, all of which affects the musculoskeletal system in one way or another. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritic condition and affects over 60% of those who are diagnosed with arthritis each year. Osteoarthritis causes the degeneration of the joints to the point which the opposing bones begin to rub against each other. This causes incredible pain, discomfort, disability and swelling. One of the single greatest surgical contributions made to the treatment protocol of your arthritis has been joint replacement or arthroplasty.

In a joint replacement surgery the physician will replace the destroyed joint with an artificial one. In the case of the knee or hip the artificial joint is made out of metal and plastic. In hand replacements the new joint is commonly made out of silicone or some of the patient’s own tissue. Also known as arthroplasty, joint replacement surgery is very common.

Knees, hips and hands are the most common joints to be considered for joint replacement surgery. Knees and hips often receive continuous stress from walking, running, injury and obesity. This affects the wearing of the cartilage and triggers arthritis. As the cartilage degenerates the underlying bone is exposed which limits motion and frequently causes a popping sensation. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis also can trigger the need for a joint replacement.

One of the more common joints to be replaced has been the hip. This surgery is very safe, effective and the prosthetic joint is fairly durable. Another option which is gaining popularity is called “Surface Replacement Arthroplasty”. This is an interim alternative which can yield short-term benefits and is usually covered by insurance. Although patients are expected to out-live the treatment effectiveness it has the advantage of preserving enough healthy bone to allow for a future hip replacement. This is a significant advantage since most artificial hips typically do not last more than 20 years. If an individual requires hip replacement surgery prior to the age of 60 or 70 they may be faced with the loss of mobility in their latter senior years because their hip replacement has failed.

The new prosthetic may or may not be cemented in place. In some cases the physician will use both techniques to keep the new joint in its intended location. Cementing may be used more often in older individuals who do not move around as much and cemented joints are recommended for younger individuals who have good bone quality. The latter may take longer to heal because the bone must grow an attached to it.

About 773,000 Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year. Risks of these surgeries will depend upon the health of the individual prior to surgery, how severe the arthritis is, and the type of joint replacement being performed. For answers to questions about the particular long-term effects and success speak with your surgeon to get his statistics.

The wrist joint can also be replaced and will effect a better long-term outcome than the previous fusions which were used to decrease pain. The concept is very similar to a hip replacement and although it does eliminate pain it cannot completely restore normal function. A typical person suffers from severe osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis but can also have some of the other less common causes. Following the surgery the patient must be willing to limit their activities in order to avoid destruction of the joint replacement.

Only your physician can determine whether or not you need a joint replacement surgery for your arthritis. But only you can determine whether or not you’re willing to undertake this procedure. Prior to discussing your alternatives your physician will have done specific diagnostic evaluation in order to determine the extent of your disease and the ability of your joint tissue to withstand the surgery.

Discuss your options with your primary care physician and your rheumatologist as well as your insurance company. Know all of your options and the consequences of any decisions you may make prior to making a decision which may significantly change the rest of your life. Undertaking at joint replacement because of arthritis will often significantly reduce, or eliminate, your pain and swelling. It can also increase your mobility and reduce your disability.

However, in order to gain the most advantages from the surgery you’re willing to undertake it is also best to reduce the amount of stress on the joints which are suffering from degeneration or rheumatoid arthritis. This means reducing your weight in order to decrease the stress on knees and hips toward changing the way in which you are using your hands in order to reduce the stress on those joints.

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Inflammatory Arthritis

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Arthritis is a generic medical term that describes well over 100 different conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, and in some cases other tissues and organs. The term inflammatory arthritis refers to any of these arthritic conditions where there is localized joint inflammation with any other type of inflammation in the tissues or organ systems.

There are several different type of inflammatory arthritis that are more commonly diagnosed than others. These include psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis arthritis. All of these conditions result in painful swelling, inflammation and redness in the joint area that results in disability, poor functional use of the joint and reduced range of motion.

Researchers from the Arthritis Research Campaign at the University of Manchester are looking to identify why the quality of life of a significant number of patients who suffer from arthritis is rated so poorly. In a health related questionnaire patients who suffer from inflammatory arthritis reported levels of pain that was rated “worse than death” by members of the general population. Rheumatoid arthritis was the most common form of the condition which affect the questionnaire participants.

According to research results from the UK within 10 years after diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, at least 50% of the sufferers were unable to hold down a full-time job. The researchers believed that the quality of life evaluations may not reflect the current treatments available to relieve pain and that more research is required.

Those who suffer from psoriatic arthritis have joint inflammation concurrent with another skin disease, psoriasis. Interestingly, not all who have psoriasis will go on to develop psoriatic arthritis but all who have psoriatic arthritis will eventually suffer from psoriasis. The joints that are more commonly involved include the hips, knees, and those close to the tips of the fingers and toes. The doctor will make a diagnosis based on symptoms, using x-ray, blood tests, and other diagnostic imaging studies to rule out other reasons for the inflammatory response in the body. Treatment includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and the use of some of the new disease modifying medications now available on the market.

Individuals who suffer from Reactive arthritis (also called Reiter syndrome) will experience inflammation in the joints and tendonal attachments which can be related to an infection. The inflammation and joint pain will be in response to an infection in the genitourinary tract or gastrointestinal tract. The patient experiences tendon inflammation, skin rashes and red eye. The diagnosis is often made by the symptoms and the physician will look for an underlying infection as the cause. Treatment will be launched at the underlying infection to stop the cascading effect as well as to decrease the inflammation and pain in the joints with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Ankylosing spondylitis is also a type of inflammatory arthritis and is characterized by inflammation of the spine and large joints that result in stiffness and pain. The patient will experience joint pain, and back stiffness. The diagnosis will be based on symptoms and imaging studies such as x-ray and MRI. Treatment will be based on both the relief of pain using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, or the administration of methotrexate. Further treatment with tumor necrosis factor can also be effective for ankylosing spndylitis.

Rheumatoid arthritis, also called rheumatoid disease, because of the systemic response in the body to the inflammatory process, is another of the inflammatory arthritic conditions. Diagnosis is made through blood tests, genetic testing and imaging tests. Treatment is aimed at reducing the symptoms of pain, swelling and inflammation, as well as reducing the progression of the disease.

Those who suffer from one of the many different types of inflammatory arthritic conditions should find hope in the continuing research that is investigating both holistic and pharmaceutical approaches to reducing pain and preventing long-term joint disability.

Categories: arthritis

Infectious Arthritis

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Arthritis is the medical term used to describe over 100 different conditions that cause an inflammatory response in the musculoskeletal system. Infectious arthritis is one of those. Also referred to as septic arthritis, it is an infection in the fluid in tissues of the joints that is usually caused by bacteria, but sometimes may be triggered by viruses or fungi.

Infectious arthritis can happen to people of any age, sex or gender. Infants can also be affected by infectious arthritis when an infection settles in one of their joints. Generally, younger children do not move the infected joints because moving or touching it is painful. Younger children may refuse to walk and older children and adults will find that the symptoms began over several hours or a few days.

The infected joint becomes red and warm and moving it or touching it is very painful. Fluid will collect in the joints and cause it to swell and stiffen. Individuals can also suffer from fever and chills. People who suffer from a more chronic infectious arthritis that’s caused by mycobacteria will have less dramatic symptoms.

The joints that are most commonly infected are the knee, shoulder, wrist, hip, elbow and fingers. Most of the time infectious arthritis will affect only one joint. People who are at risk are those who have abnormal joints all ready because of arthritic damage or who develop an infection that reaches their bloodstream. For example, an older individual, who has an infection in their bloodstream can fall and injure their knee. Bleeding from the knee results in an infectious arthritis because the blood enters the joint space. I joint can also be infected directly if it is contaminated during surgery or from an injury.

The most likely bacteria to cause an infected joint will depend upon the individual’s age. For instance, researchers know that infected infants and children will experience staphylococci infections while gonococci and streptococci most often infect older children and adults. Viruses, such as HIV, parvovirus and hepatitis B, can infect the joints the people of any age.

If your physician suspects that you may have an infectious arthritic joint they will require a sample of the fluid which is removed with a sterile needle as soon as possible. This fluid will be examined for white blood cells as well as cultured for bacteria and other organisms. In this way the doctor can recommend a treatment protocol which is specifically aimed at the organisms which are causing your infection. Doctors will usually order blood tests as well to determine whether or not the individual also has it in their bloodstream. Sputum culture, spinal fluid culture and urine culture may also be collected looking for bacteria in order to determine the source of the infection.

Without immediate treatment the joint can be destroyed within days, sometimes within hours. Prompt treatment must be started to prevent this from happening, even before the laboratory has identified the infecting organisms. The physician will recommend antibiotics that are broad spectrum, kill the most likely bacteria within a broad range until the infecting organism has been identified. These antibiotics will be given first by a vein to ensure that enough of the drug reaches the joint. If the right antibiotic was chosen there will be improvement within the first 48 hours.

The physician may often choose to do a needle aspiration of the joints in order to remove as much pus as possible to prevent damage. It’s a needle aspiration is difficult or unsuccessful the doctor may recommend an arthroscopic procedure to drain the fluid.

The actual infection of the fluid is in the synovial or peri-articular tissues. About 50% of the children who have a joint infection are less than three years old but with routine childhood vaccination for Haemophilus influenza and Streptococcus pneumonia this incidence is decreasing.

The physician may or may not offer x-rays of the involved joint because they are not diagnostic of an acute infection. However they can also pick up other conditions that are under consideration, such as fractures. Any abnormalities in the early stages of infectious arthritis are limited to the soft tissue will not show under x-ray. However, after 10 to 14 days of being untreated the destruction will be visible on x-ray.

Individuals who are at risk for septic arthritis or infectious arthritis are those who are taking immune suppression medicines, intravenous drug abusers, have had a past history of joint disease injury or surgery, or who may have an underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, alcoholism, sickle cell or rheumatic disease.

Categories: arthritis