ARTHRITIS’ BASIC: Good to know facts

autoimmune-arthritis-day

Here comes the cold and rainy season, (well, it might be a little late for me to say that since it’s already December), and whenever the rainy season comes around, I have noticed that there’s always an increase of complaints about back pains, hip and knee pains, and the like, especially among the 50+ age group.

The word ARTHRITIS often comes to mind. It is considered as one of the oldest illness in the world and affects millions of people today.

According to the US Center for Disease Control, although arthritis is literally defined as joint inflammation, the term itself is used to describe more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues which surround the joint and other connective tissue. The only difference in the pattern, severity and location of the symptoms lies on the specific form of the disease.

Who are at risk?

Everyone is at risk: arthritis can affect people from all ages, from all walks of life. But here are some of the risk factors that make you more prone to arthritis:

MODIFIABLE:

  • Obesity and/or Body build. Aside from other potential conditions associated with obesity, an excess of extra kilos puts extra pressure on your joints, especially on your knees, hips and spine that’s why it puts you more at risk for developing arthritis.
  • Past joint injury. If you have experienced any past injury in your joints, (i.e in an accident or any sport injury), you are more likely to develop arthritis in the future in that particular joint.

NON-MODIFIABLE:

  • Age. Although arthritis can affect people of all ages, those who are more at risk are people between the ages 40 and 60, the risk increases as we age.
  • Family history. If your family has any history with arthritis, you have an increased risk and are more likely to develop arthritis, too. Your genes make you more susceptible to this condition.
  • Gender. Among people, women are more likely to develop RA (rheumatoid arthritis) while men are most commonly affected with gout.

There are many types of arthritis; the most common are the following:

  1. OSTEOARTHRITIS —-most common type. This condition is referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, because it happens when your joints become overused and it usually involves the destruction of the cartilages, which serves as the cushion and/or shock absorber at the end of our bones. When this cushion breaks down,  the bones rub together and most often, patients feel pain.
  2. RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS— this second type is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue. The joint swelling that happens over a long period of time often leads to deformity of the said area and loss of function in the joint.
  3.  FIBROMYALGIA – Although this is not considered as arthritis, this causes fatigue,  stiffness and widespread pain especially on the following area: neck, shoulders, and hips.

MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS:

  • Swelling and stiffness to the affected joints. The most common is the early-morning stiffness that is accompanied with/without pain. The discomfort often improves within 30 minutes after the person starts moving.
  • Pain. Joint pain often results from overuse from intense activities like running, walking, jogging, biking, too much exercise etc.
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Slight fever

There is no known exact cure for arthritis, what we can do as we age is for us to sustain in achieving functional health— to continue doing our regular activities with minimal and tolerable pain, and for us to continue to live our life as comfortable as we age. Here are some self-management tips that one can do to help cope with arthritis pain

  1. SEEK MEDICAL HELP. Remember, don’t diagnose yourself. No matter how insignificant you think your symptom may be, never ignore it. The earlier you seek medical attention, the better, because it may help prevent further problems. There are many different types of arthritis and each one may need to be treated differently. Find a doctor who specializes in arthritis and its different types.:
  2.  BE AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF YOUR HEALTH-CARE TEAM. You are the patient. You have a say as to what treatment plan and/or options for your care. When you go to your doctors’ appointments, be sure to have your updated list of your medicines etc. Listen carefully and don’t hesitate to ask questions about something you may/ may not be comfortable with in the course of your treatment. Also, as part of the health care team, it is your responsibility to educate yourself—to know facts/basic facts on your condition.
  3. REST. You’re no Superman nor Wonderwoman. As you age, you will notice that your body will get tired more easily than you were younger. Too much activity often only triggers pain that’s why it is advisable for you to rest from straining and repetitive activities every once in a while.
  4. EXERCISE. Whether you have arthritis or not, it is important that you keep your joints and muscles strong. The keyword you need to remember is light-to-moderate exercise. Don’t push yourself too hard, as it can only lead to injuries, faster degeneration and more pain. You can seek the help of a  physiotherapist, who can advise you on helpful exercises, which will vary depending on your type of arthritis.
  5. DIET. With or without arthritis, we all need to  be aware and be sensible of what we eat and drink because diet plays a very important role in our overall well-being. If you have arthritis, you should take importance in not letting yourself be overweight as being overweight puts extra strain and pressure on the joints. A special diet is often recommended for those who have arthritis— a diet which includes plenty of fruits and fiber, and less of meat and/or animal fat. You may be prescribed with medicines/drugs for your condition and you should remember that even if it’s rare for alcohol to affect arthritis, alcohol can interact with some drugs that’s why you need to limit (best if you avoid) drinking alcoholic beverages. 

© 2014, Filipino Nurses. All rights reserved. DISCLAIMER: The accuracy of all articles contained in this website are the responsibility of their respective authors. All articles are for informational purposes only and are NOT intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The owner of this site disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on these information. If you have any health-related questions, please consult your physician. If you feel ill, please seek medical attention immediately.

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