There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in the world. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older. However, people are still unawares of this condition and carry a lot of misconceptions whenever they have joint pains. This trend is seen more among elderly people in rural areas and the villages.
Going round to find out the level of peoples’ awareness about the condition, Medtrend Health correspondent connected with an aged lady in Rivers State who couldn’t walk well because of her leg pains. Although it proved to be the signs of arthritis, she said she believed it could be the handwork of her enemies. Her response was similar to several others who likewise attributed joint and leg pains to an attack from their enemies.
But what then could really be responsible for most of the joint pains that people have, especially the elderly? This article covers what arthritis is, the causes and the common symptoms. It is important that our elderly people and anyone with joint pains should visit the hospital for proper diagnosis by the doctor to determine the cause of the problem and treatment.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis refers to the inflammation of one or more joints, causing pain and stiffness that can worsen with age. Inflammation is a process in which the body’s white blood cells and immune proteins help protect us from infection and foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses. Actually, “ arthritis ” is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease.
In some diseases, however, the body’s defense system (immune system) triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign substances to fight off. Such diseases are called autoimmune diseases because the body’s normally protective immune system causes damage to its own tissues. The body responds as if normal tissues are infected or somehow abnormal.
What are the Causes?
There is no single cause of all types of arthritis. The cause or causes vary according to the type or form of arthritis. Possible causes may include:
- Injury – leading to degenerative arthritis.
- Abnormal metabolism – leading to gout and pseudogout.
- Inheritance – such as in osteoarthritis.
- Infections – such as in the arthritis of Lyme disease.
- Immune system dysfunction – such as in RA and SLE – Autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your tissues.
What are the Common symptoms?
Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.
Arthritis symptoms may come and go. They can also be mild, moderate or severe. In some cases, they may stay about the same for years, or may progress and get worse over time.
Common arthritis joint symptoms include:
- stiffness and decreased range of motion.
- fatigue/loss of energy.
- loss of appetite.
- muscle stiffness.
Why the Pain?
Arthritis is a type of inflammation of the joints. Whenever inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body are released into the blood or affected tissues. This release of chemicals increases the blood flow to the area of injury or infection and may result in redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling due to oxidative stress. This process may stimulate nerves and cause pain.
Osteoarthritis, another form of arthritis affecting the bones of the body, is basically caused by degeneration of joint tissues after repetitive use – wear and tear. This is due to deficiency of chemicals called antioxidants in the body like glutathione which is needed for the production of stem cells responsible for repairs and regeneration of damaged tissues. The same process of inflammation takes place which results in the bone pains people have.