Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
According to a report, more than 180 million people in India are affected by Arthritis. The same report also says that women are more at risk. Furthermore, the prevalence of it is higher than that of cancer, diabetes and AIDS. Now, these facts must have made you question why arthritis is so common. You must be wondering whether you are amongst those 180 million Indians suffering from arthritis. Well, do not stress anymore as we are here to help you out. Here is a guidebook to manage your arthritis. Read on know more about this disease and your risk factors.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a rheumatic condition. This means it is a way for referring to any and all diseases relating to joints. There are around 200 conditions that affect joints. Each of them has a different cause. However, there are two most common types – Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Former is also known as degenerative joint disease. It is caused by the degeneration of parts of joints like cartilage. It can happen due to increasing age. On the other hand, the latter is a type of autoimmune disorder. Here our own body mistakenly attacks the healthy tissues.
Older people are more frequently diagnosed with arthritis. But lately, younger people are also complaining about joint pains. Autoimmune disorders and certain injuries could be the cause. This means that you cannot ignore this disease thinking that you are young. Even if you do not see any symptoms of it, you need to know about the disease to prevent it and make your old age disease-free.
Types and Causes of Arthritis
Since there are around 200 types of arthritis, it is hard to define each one of them. We can, nonetheless, discuss a few of the types that are mostly seen. So, mentioned below are the most common types of arthritis along with a brief description that will help you understand their cause. Symptoms of them are also mentioned to help you identify your risk. However, we would advise you to never self-diagnose yourself. If you feel discomfort and are able to relate to any of the type mentioned below, visit your doctor for a complete analysis of your situation.
It is the condition that develops in older age due to wear and tear of your bones. Imagine the doors. Because of continuous use over the years, “joints” of them get rusty and they creak. The same thing happens to your joints. Over the years, due to continuous pressure and use, cartilage weakens. In other words, you lose our shock absorber or slippery material. Due to this loss, the bones rub against each other which cause pain and may sometime make a grating sound. This loss can also happen if you are over-weight. This extra weight puts extra pressure on the joints causing them to deteriorate faster. Bones at your hips, knees, spine, and feet commonly gets affected.
Symptoms: Deep pain; Trouble doing regular tasks that require movement; Difficulty in walking; Joint may get swollen and warm at a touch.
It is an autoimmune disorder. Here, our own immune system attacks parts of the body. Usually, our immune system works to fight the infections. Yet, in some cases, it gets confused and attacks the healthy tissues of the body. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, joints are the target. This attack permanently damages the joints. Since age does not play any role here, children are also at risk. Most commonly targeted joints are of wrists, hands and feet.
Symptoms: Pain and swelling in hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, feet, jaw and neck; Stiffness that lasts for hours; Fatigue; Appetite and weight loss.
This is also a result of autoimmune disorder. Psoriatic arthritis affects those who have psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition where red patches develop on the skin. Those patches are topped with silver scales. People first develop psoriasis and are diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis later. Though, joint pain can begin before the appearance of red patches. Any part of your body could be affected. As of now, no treatment of psoriasis exists. All your doctor can do is focus on controlling the symptoms while preventing damage to the joints.
Symptoms: Mild to severe pain, stiffness and swelling of any join ranging from fingertips to spine; discolouration of fingernails.
In this condition, you will wake up with sudden sharp pain in your big toe. It is caused by increased levels or buildup of uric acid in the joint. Your big toe is the first and most common affected part. Other affected joints can be ankles, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Flare-ups can last up to 10 days. After the first gout attack, you may not have another one for months or years. But with time, these attacks will only become frequent. Thus, treatment is important. Otherwise, your joints and kidneys can be affected.
Symptoms: Inflammation, swelling, stiffness and sudden sharp pain in joints; even after the sharp pain resides, your joint will still hurt.
We reiterate the fact that there are around 200 types of arthritis. Discussed above are the most common ones. And each type of arthritis has different cause and symptoms. Thus, what we have mentioned here is not the limit. If you have any kind of discomfort in your joints and you do not relate to any of the type discussed here, we advise you to visit your doctor for a complete examination and correct diagnosis for proper treatment.
Complications due to untreated Arthritis
Any kind of pains in joints can affect your day-to-day activities. There is no point for you to leave your pain as it is. Understanding its cause and getting proper treatment is necessary. If you become negligent towards your body’s demand, your body will not support you for long. If, by any chance, you are unable to identify your condition following can happen in the long run:
- Permanent damage and deformity of joints
- Loss of function and disability
- Osteoporosis, a condition where bone density decreases
- Anaemia or lack of red blood cells
- Early death
Understanding test reports
Your doctor will ask for the following tests to identify your condition:
- RA Factor Quantitative
- RA factor Qualitative
The first test for arthritis is RA factor Qualitative. A positive result of it is to be followed by an RA Factor Quantitative, which has to be repeated every 2-3 months.
RA Factor Quantitative – Adults <10 IU/mL
RA factor Qualitative – Non-Reactive
*Reference range may vary from lab to lab
Lifestyle recommendations to manage your Arthritis
Arthritis is a permanent disease. Treatment of it can only help you in controlling the symptoms and in the prevention from further damage. Incorporating some healthy changes in your lifestyle can further help you in dealing with the disease. Let us look at a few do’s and don’ts that will make your arthritic pain less painful.
- Eat more of calcium-rich foods. Add more dairy products along with spinach, fenugreek leaves and like into your diet.
- Include ghee (clarified butter) in your diet as it helps in providing lubrication and reducing inflammation in joint areas. 3 tsp per day is normally advised.
- Increase fluid intake to halt the accumulation of toxic waste products like uric acid.
- Add more antioxidants to your diet to check free radical damage to bones and muscles. Include whole grains, nuts, oilseeds, fruits, green leafy vegetables, tea, fish etc.
- Aim for a weight slightly lower than the ideal body weight as to reduce constraint on bones.
- Include turmeric, seafood, black pepper, green tea in your diet as they have anti-inflammatory actions.
- Use flaxseeds, sunflowers seeds for their abundance in Omega -6 fatty acids as it reduces stiffness, swelling and soreness.
- Exposure to the sun for at least 40 minutes per day without applying sunscreens as sun exposure enhances calcium absorption and bone strengthening.
- Don’t eat junk food on a regular basis as it depletes the level of good cholesterol in your body.
- Don’t combine iron-rich foods with calcium-rich foods as it hinders calcium absorption. For e.g a banana shake
- Excessive consumption of potatoes, brinjal and tomatoes can also cause joint pain due to the presence of toxic glycoalkaloids.
- Avoid alcohol intake in case of gouty arthritis as it interferes with the excretory mechanism of uric acid.
Exercise and arthritis coexist. People with arthritis who exercise regularly have less pain, more energy, improved sleep and better day-to-day function. Start slowly with a few, low-intensity exercises.
Aerobic exercises: Include walking, aquatic exercise, bicycling or exercising on equipment such as stationary bikes and treadmills. Daily tasks such as mowing the lawn, playing golf or walking the dog are also aerobic if carried out at a moderate intensity level. Dedicate 150 minutes to moderate-intensity exercise a week.
For stronger muscles, strengthening exercises are recommended. One set of 8-10 exercises for the major muscle groups of the body 2-3 times a week is recommended.
Yoga poses to ease arthritis
No matter what kind of arthritis you are suffering from, practising yoga can give you much relief. It strengthens the joint muscles and makes the body more flexible. Following are a few yoga poses that are beneficial:
- Virabhadrasana or Warrior pose
- Vrikshasana or Tree pose
- Marjariasana or Cat stretch
- Trikonasana or Triangle pose
We hope that we have cleared most of your doubts related to arthritis. We urge you to not ignore your joint pains and get tested as early as possible. With early detection, you can prevent future complications. Add a bit of modification in your life. This will only make it a lot happier and healthier.
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