The general term of arthritis is used frequently to describe over one hundred types of joint pain or joint disease. People of all ages, sex, and race are affected by arthritis, with women being diagnosed more frequently than men are.
What Is Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the primary type of arthritis diagnosed, but other types are not so common. The wearing away of cartilage on the surface ends of the bones causes the inflammation and joint pain associated with arthritis. Mobility and fine motor activities become more difficult and painful. Arthritis can be infrequent in the beginning but can become more severe with time.
There are many forms of arthritis; each includes specific symptoms and causes. The classic symptoms of arthritis are joint pain, swelling at the site of inflammation and loss of ability to perform functions such as walking up stairs and tying shoes with arthritis in hands. With some types of arthritis, there can be visible changes to the joints affected. Other types of arthritis require testing and examination to support a diagnosis.
What Causes Arthritis
The causes of arthritis vary with each type. Each of the following forms of arthritis has a specific cause with joint pain and swelling being the common factor in most of the types:
- Metabolic arthritis is caused by high uric acid levels. Uric acid allows crystals to form in the joints causing pain and inflammation in the affected area. Gout is a term used to describe this form of arthritis.
- Inflammatory arthritis can be caused by genetic or environmental factors. Inflammation occurs due to the autoimmune system triggering a response. Included in this category are psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Infectious arthritis is caused by a fungus, bacteria, or virus entering the system and is treated with antibiotics. Treatment is usually successful, but symptoms of arthritis may be chronic.
- Degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis is the common form of arthritis. Causes of osteoarthritis are the wearing of bone cartilage, in turn, causing inflammation, pain, and swelling.
A diagnosis of arthritis is usually made initially with a primary care physician. The initial exam will include the following:
- A thorough medical history including past illness and a possible family history of arthritis.
- Physical examination especially of the joints and mobility.
- Lab and imaging tests will be ordered to determine the form of arthritis.
The primary physician may do all or most of the testing, or they may refer to a rheumatologist to complete the diagnosis.
Rheumatologists encourage treating arthritis as early as possible. Treating arthritis in its early stages will stop further damage to the body. Drugs to treat arthritis have greatly improved, and treatment is successful when treated early. Preventing the damage to joints and affected parts of the body are successful in arthritis pain relief.