How to Treat Arthritis Generally, arthritis refers to the inflammation of one or more joints in the body. The term arthritis is actually used to cover over 100 conditions that impact the joints and the tissues around the joints of the body. When it comes to knowing how to treat arthritis, the options can differ between the various types, which we will explain. Overall, arthritis can be uncomfortable. Pain and inflammation may come and go. Individuals with arthritis can also experience flare-ups at certain times. This condition can make it difficult to move or participate in regular activities. However, for the most common types of arthritis, there are treatment options available. In this article, we are going to explore the most common types of arthritis, their symptoms and their treatments. 4 Most Common Types of Arthritis The four most common types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), psoriatic arthritis and gout. In the following sections, we examine these arthritic conditions in more detail. 1. Rheumatoid Arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis, RA, is technically an autoimmune condition. This type of arthritis happens when a person’s own immune system attacks healthy cells. This creates pain and inflammation at the joints, commonly impacting the hands, wrists and knees. However, RA can also impact various systems throughout the body, such as the skin, heart, lungs, eyes and blood vessels. RA Symptoms Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis typically include: Tender, warm and inflamed joints. Joint stiffness, fatigue. Fever. Loss of appetite. In most cases, symptoms happen to both sides of the body. These symptoms may further vary in their severity and involve flare-up periods and remission periods. RA Treatment Options Treatment frequently involves medications to help reduce inflammation, as well as physical therapy and occupational therapy to help an individual continue to perform their daily tasks with as much ease as possible. Common medications include NSAIDs, steroids and DMARDs. 2. Osteoarthritis (OA) Osteoarthritis, OA, is the most common type of arthritis. Often referred to as the wear-and-tear arthritis, OA happens as the cartilage at the end of the bones wears down over time. This usually happens to the knees, hips, hands and spine. While it is impossible to reverse the damage caused by osteoarthritis, there are various options to help manage it and reduce the associated symptoms. Osteoarthritis Symptoms Typically, OA develops gradually over time. Symptoms may include: Painful joints. Stiff joints. Tender joints. Decreased range of motion and flexibility. Grating sensations. Swelling. Bone spurs. Eventually, these symptoms become worse and worse, making it difficult to perform one’s regular activities and daily tasks. OA Treatment Options OA treatment usually involves a combination of methods. Depending on your circumstances, treatment may include a weight loss regime, increased physical activity and strengthening of the areas and muscles around affected joints. Treatment may also consist of medications, physical therapy and supportive devices. In severe phases of osteoarthritis, your doctor may recommend a hip or knee replacement. [youmaylike] 3. Psoriatic Arthritis Psoriatic arthritis happens in individuals who have psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition that leads to patchy red and scaly skin. Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis is when the body’s own immune system attacks healthy cells, causing damage, pain and inflammation at the joints. This type of arthritis most commonly affects the toes, fingers, knees, hips and elbows. Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms Common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are also similar to rheumatoid arthritis, including: Swollen fingers and toes. Painful joints that are warm to touch. Lower back pain. Foot pain. Nail alterations. Eye inflammation. Although rare, some individuals with psoriatic arthritis may further develop arthritis mutilans, which can destroy the small bones in the hands and feet. Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment Options Similar to other types of arthritis, there is no cure. Thus, treatment also focuses on controlling and managing the associated symptoms to maintain a person’s quality of life. Medications, such as NSAIDs, DMARDs and more may be used. Your doctor may further recommend steroidal injections or joint replacement surgery. Additionally, physical therapy and occupational therapy can help improve strength and flexibility and help you lead a relatively normal life. 4. Gout Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs quite suddenly. A gout attack usually impacts one joint at a time, with some individuals claiming it feels as though the joint is on fire. Most often, it impacts the big toe, with flare-ups lasting a few days or weeks. Gout Symptoms Common gout symptoms include: Intense joint pain (most common in the big toe, knees, ankles, elbow, fingers and wrist). Inflammation of the joint. Redness at the joint. Reduced range of motion. Gout is frequently due to the build-up of urate crystals accumulating at the joint, leading to the above symptoms. Gout Treatment Options Usually, doctors prescribe medications to treat gout. These may include NSAIDs, colchicine, corticosteroids, or medications blocking uric acid production or helping with uric acid removal. For those who experience gout attacks, it is further recommended to drink plenty of healthy beverages and avoid alcohol and sweetened drinks. Avoiding foods with purines, such as red meat and organ meats, can also help prevent flare-ups. Lastly, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle can help strengthen your joints, reducing gout incidences.
Do I Have Lupus?
Your body has an immune system that defends it from germs and foreign bodies. Sometimes, your body’s defense system mistakes some of the cells in your body for germs and begins to fight them. This is called an autoimmune disease, and lupus is just one example.
Lupus is a long-term autoimmune condition with alternating periods of mild to severe symptoms that cause pain and inflammation within your body. The most commonly affected areas include the skin, organs such as the lungs, kidneys, heart, and joints.
The Lupus Foundation stated that about 1.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition. However, the figure might be higher if you consider cases that have not been reported. Lupus affects all age groups but has been found to have a higher incidence among women between the ages of 15 to 44, individuals with a family history of other autoimmune conditions or lupus, and some ethnic groups, including Hispanic, Native American, African American, and Asian American.
Types of Lupus
This article focuses on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), as it is the most common type. When someone is talking about lupus, they are usually referring to SLE. However, there are four different types:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — the most common type, affecting 70% of people with lupus.
- Cutaneous — limited to the skin, causing rashes or sores (lesions). Approximately two-thirds of people with lupus will develop a form of cutaneous lupus.
- Drug-induced — a lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription medications. This type is more common in men.
- Neonatal — not true lupus, but a rare condition that affects the fetus and infant of a mother with lupus.
Symptoms of Lupus
The symptoms associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) include:
- Body weakness
- Loss of hair
- Pain and swelling in the joints
- A characteristic rash that spreads across the nose and cheeks commonly referred to as a “butterfly rash”
- Delayed wound healing
- Raynaud’s phenomenon in which the fingers turn blue or white when exposed to cold
The symptoms may develop slowly, and no two cases are exactly alike. They may be temporary or permanent, and they can range from mild to severe. The signs and symptoms are similar to those of other systemic conditions, so careful assessment is needed to diagnose properly.
The cause of this condition is still unknown, but some factors have been linked to the condition.
Lupus has been noted to occur more in females than males with worsened symptoms during menstruation and pregnancy. These findings have prompted clinicians to link estrogen with the condition.
Although no gene is associated with the condition so far, it has been observed that individuals with this condition tend to have members of their family who also have other autoimmune issues.
These can be from physical or emotional trauma, infections, medications, and radiation.
How to Manage Lupus
Management begins with an appropriate diagnosis. This usually includes your doctor taking a medical history to determine when the symptoms started, their frequency, duration, and severity.
A thorough physical examination is then conducted to identify the signs of the condition, such as:
- Thinning or loss of hair
- Tenderness and joint swelling
- Butterfly or malar rash
- Oral or nasal ulcers
- Pain or difficulty breathing which may indicate lung involvement
- Irregularities in heartbeat or function which could indicate heart involvement
Several screening tests may be done, including a chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), urinalysis, blood tests, and tests for other specific areas that could be affected, such as the abdomen.
As of today, there is still no cure for lupus. The condition can only be managed long-term through:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and antimalarial medications to relieve joint pain and tenderness
- Corticosteroids to stabilize the immune system
- Steroid-based creams for butterfly rashes
- In severe cases, medications that specifically target the immune system are often prescribed
You may also get referred to specialists who will help manage affected parts of your body, such as a cardiologist or rheumatologist. You should also ensure that you modify your lifestyle to reduce stress and environmental triggers and drink lots of water.
Lupus can cause severe pregnancy complications, sometimes resulting in miscarriage, so it is essential to involve your doctor throughout your pregnancy and delivery process. Since the condition affects the immune system in various parts of the body, long-term effects can manifest in several ways, such as:
- Blood clots could get dislodged and block narrow blood vessels leading to loss of function of the affected organ
- Inflamed blood vessels, lungs, and kidneys
- Lung or Kidney failure
- Memory loss
- Alopecia or baldness
- Heart attack
What is the Prognosis?
The prognosis for lupus varies because it affects everyone differently. Nonetheless, it is crucial that you begin managing the condition early. Do not hesitate to let your health care provider know about any new symptoms, pregnancy, or issues that may be bothering you.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a long-term condition, and managing it can sometimes negatively affect mental health. Make sure to seek counseling and support when necessary, and try not to work under stressful conditions or in environments that can be detrimental to your health and well-being.