Arthritis: causes, symptoms, treatment

Arthritis is a collective concept of several systemic (affecting the whole body) diseases that affect the joints and nearby connective tissue but occur for various reasons.

Arthritis can be either a separate pathology (spondylitis) or appear as a complication of another disease, damaging one joint (monoarthritis) or several at once (polyarthritis). Along the course, chronic, subacute, and acute variants are also distinguished.

Types of arthritis

Primary forms that occur on their own and not due to other pathologies may be as follows:

  • rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that often affects small joints (such as fingers);
  • spondylitis – infectious damage to the spine and intervertebral joints caused by various bacteria (tuberculosis, osteomyelitis);
  • Still’s a disease – a subspecies of rheumatoid arthritis in children, occurring most often before the age of 16;
  • osteoarthritis – during the pathological process, cartilage tissue is irreversibly damaged, causing complete deformation;
  • Gouty arthritis is a metabolic disease caused by the deposition of uric acid salts on the joints.
Arthritis: causes, symptoms, treatment

Diagnosis of secondary forms that appear against the background of other diseases can be difficult due to the symptoms of the underlying pathology:

  • systemic lupus erythematosus affecting the connective tissue and its derivatives;
  • hemochromatosis – iron accumulates in tissues and organs due to genetic damage, damaging them;
  • reactive arthritis – some infections (genitourinary, intestinal, nasopharyngeal) can also affect the joints, causing this form of the disease;
  • granulomatosis – an inflammatory process that is accompanied by the appearance of nodules (granulomas);
  • psoriatic arthritis – appears and progresses on the background of psoriasis;
  • Borreliosis – some ticks, when bitten, can transmit bacteria (borrelia), primarily affecting the musculoskeletal system and joints.

Causes of Arthritis

At the moment, the exact, decisive risk factors for developing this disease are unknown. However, the following groups can comprehensively influence its occurrence and progression:

  • genetic predisposition – if relatives have this pathology, it can be inherited;
  • infectious agents – when certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi enter the body, during the regular operation of the immune system, it successfully fights them, but with some failures, antibodies can begin to attack their cells;
  • metabolic disorders (arthritis of the fingers with gout);
  • constant stress on the joints – in professional sports, the joints are subject to severe wear due to excessive work or pressure exerted on them;
  • some specific infectious diseases can contribute to the development of arthritis as a complication (tuberculosis, gonorrhea);
  • traumatic injury to the joints can cause an inflammatory process in them;
  • Excess weight also puts increased stress on the joints;
  • diseases of the central nervous system;
  • pathology of the spine (with the development of scoliosis, the load on the knee joints is distributed unevenly, which leads to their traumatization);
  • hormonal disorders (especially arthritis in women after menopause);
  • age-related degenerative changes in connective and cartilaginous tissues, their destruction, a decrease in the amount of fluid in the joint cavity;
  • Malnutrition, lack of vitamins and minerals, and neglect of a healthy lifestyle.
Arthritis: causes, symptoms, treatment

Arthritis symptoms

Symptoms of the disease progress depending on the degree of arthritis:

  • first degree: At the very beginning of the disease, ultrasound can determine the compaction of periarticular tissues or inflammatory processes with movements – slight discomfort or stiffness can be felt;
  • second degree: the shell of the joints continues to thin, the joint space narrows, osteoporosis develops, pain appears when the bone rubs against the joint cavity, redness, and swelling, and local fever;
  • third degree: the joint is completely deformed, limiting any movement; the muscles try to compensate for the impaired functionality and are in constant tone, which can cause convulsions;
  • Fourth degree: the head of the bone and the articular cavity grow together, forming defective bone structures (ankylosis), and the patient develops excruciating pains that chain him to bed.

Signs of arthritis can vary depending on the affected joint, complications, or underlying disease. For example, if the elbow joint is affected, there will be problems with moving or lifting objects, playing tennis, or badminton. With arthritis of the knee joints, squats, kneeling, and a prolonged sitting position begin to bring pain. If the joints of the fingers are damaged, fine motor skills are disturbed, and it becomes impossible to completely and tightly grasp some small objects.

Diagnosis of arthritis

A careful survey, collection of complaints and anamnesis, search for hypothetical relationships, and identification of risk factors for the development of the disease can determine the presence of pathology.

Arthritis: causes, symptoms, treatment

Confirm the doctor’s assumptions with:

  • laboratory tests: complete blood count, in which you can determine the presence of general inflammatory processes, analysis of synovial fluid (located in the joint cavity) to monitor the development of septic mechanisms;
  • Instrumental methods: x-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound, and arthroscopy (direct examination of the articular cavity), which diagnose the stage of arthritis of the joints and the presence of concomitant complications.

Unfortunately, these methods cannot determine the cause of the development of the pathology. Therefore, in some cases, when finding the appropriate symptoms, consultations may be required not only from a rheumatologist or traumatologist but also from related specialists.

Arthritis treatment

The goals of complex and multitasking therapy for this pathology are to relieve pain, restore mobility and functionality of the joints, stop disease progression, and prevent complications.

In the initial stages, treatment can be conservative; although there is no one specific tablet for arthritis, a set of drugs is used:

  • painkillers (local or systemic);
  • anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • physiotherapeutic methods (ultrasound therapy, massage, laser therapy);
  • gymnastics and exercise therapy;
  • Plasma therapy – the patient’s plasma is injected into the joint bag using syringes with thin needles (before the procedure, several blood tubes are taken from him, which are then centrifuged).
Arthritis: causes, symptoms, treatment

In more severe cases and advanced situations, surgery may be required to restore the mobility of the fused joint and replace it entirely.

Practical support for the treatment of arthritis is a diet when the diet includes a lot of foods containing protein (dairy, meat, and fish dishes) and vegetable fats, which increase the amount of natural lubricant in the joints.

Arthritis prevention

With timely access to a specialist and the appointment for the correct treatment, the prognosis for this disease is very favorable. The therapy can take six months to a year, but its results last for several years and even a decade, subject to all the rules and the exercises prescribed by the doctor.

However, to maintain a stable state, it is necessary to observe the following points for the prevention of this pathology (especially in the presence of risk factors, for example, heredity):

  • reduce the load on the joints, and do not overestimate your strength (arthritis in men often appears due to constant weight lifting);
  • balance nutrition, consume the required amount of vitamins and minerals, and in some cases, use supplements (for example, if vegetarianism is observed);
  • to refuse bad habits;
  • regularly perform various physical exercises, not exceeding the load norms;
  • protect yourself from infectious diseases and insect bites that can carry dangerous pathogens leading to the development of this pathology;
  • undergo preventive examinations by specialist doctors (especially when playing professional sports).

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