Is defined as an inflammatory reaction which affects a joint (or joints) with noted pain, stiffness and swelling. Arthritis may be classified and based on whether it occurs as a result of:
* Degenerative changes: within the joint e.g. osteoarthritis as a result of genetics, menopause, trauma, etc.; spondylitis; or a cluster of painful syndromes of the soft connective tissues.
* Inflammatory: e.g. resulting from infection; connective tissue disorders; rheumatoid arthritis; spondyloarthritis which is also known as spondyloarthropathy, affects the: arms, legs, pelvis and spine.
* Metabolic disturbance: e.g. gout.
Although it most commonly affects older people, it can also occur in children. Its incidence is often higher in women, rather than men.
The cardinal symptom of arthritis is joint pain. The most common symptoms and signs irrespective of the type of arthritis are:
- Difficulty with mobility e.g. trouble with walking or rising from a sitting position; moving the hands; inability to grasp things due to loss of strength in the arms, hands or deformity, etc.
- Disturbed sleep due to pain, resulting in tiredness, mood changes.
- Joint pain, which might include the neck resulting in headaches.
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of disabilities worldwide. Those who suffer severe arthritis find it extremely difficult to carry out their daily chores due to both pain and/or lack of mobility. In the event that a person is affected by e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, the simplest task like pouring water or holding a glass can be virtually impossible. Many people cannot even leave the house because of walking difficulties due to pain or muscle weakness. Therefore, the lack of physical activities over a long period of time might lead to other problems such as, depression due to a combination of pain, sleep deprivation, loss of independence; weight loss or gain, etc.; all due to lifestyle changes.
Diagnosis is based not only on clinical findings, but also tests such as, CT-Scan, MRI and x-ray. Pathology tests are also performed to identify inflammatory and other markers. These tests are essential to help identify and classify the type of arthritis the patient is suffering with.
Unfortunately, there is no instant cure for arthritis, but treatments are available. This is dependent on the type of arthritis one is suffering with and how long it has been active for. Although the damage incurred cannot be reversed, in a number of cases treatments can either stop or ease the pain, and help gain some of the joint function again. As is the case in all disease, correct diagnosis is essential. In cases such as rheumatoid arthritis, especially during its acute phase, it is recommended that one consults a rheumatologist for proper assessment. Complementary medicine works well, but cannot in all cases e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, be treated without prescription S4 intervention. In spite of this fact, complementary medicine can be used concomitantly with your prescription. At York City Health Clinic we understand drug interaction and therefore, we will work in conjunction with your other practitioners so as to provide the patient with both pain relief and in most cases, effective treatment to assist in this debilitating condition.
Author: John D. McGuire