Arthritis is one of the most common joint issues in the world. It’s estimated to affect 1 out of every 4 Americans, and over 350 million people worldwide.
Arthritis can cause painful and swollen joints, restricted mobility, and even muscle wasting.
But what exactly is arthritis, and just how serious is it? Don’t worry – we’ve got all the answers right here!
In this handy guide, we’ll take you through everything there is to know about arthritis, from what it actually is to its symptoms, as well as the ways that arthritis is treated.
So read on, and let’s cover all the facts!
What Actually Is Arthritis?
First of all, let’s cover what arthritis actually is. Arthritis is a type of joint condition characterized by swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints.
There isn’t one single condition called ‘arthritis’, and it’s actually more of a catch-all term used to describe these types of joint issues; in fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis that have slightly different symptoms and treatments.
Arthritis is more common in older people, and symptoms typically tend to start between the ages of 40 and 50 years old.
Osteoarthritis, by far the most common form of arthritis, tends to occur in parts of the body that are subjected to the most wear and tear (e.g. the hands, hips, and knees).
The second most common type of arthritis, known as rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune disorder that causes severe inflammation in the fingers, wrists, and feet.
Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by extended wear and tear on the joints over many years, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a combination of genetics and hormonal factors.
There are many other forms of arthritis, but they all involve varying levels of inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the joints around your body.
There isn’t a single cause of arthritis, and different types have different causes ranging from strain on your joints to hereditary reasons.
How Serious Is Arthritis?
Now that we’ve covered what arthritis is, let’s take a look at how serious it is.
In the same way that there are many different causes and symptoms of arthritis, there is also a lot of variation in terms of the condition’s severity.
Some forms of arthritis are mild and don’t pose any particular obstacles or issues in a person’s day-to-day life; other types of arthritis, meanwhile, can be debilitating, causing severe pain and discomfort and limiting the sufferer’s mobility.
One thing that all types of arthritis have in common, however, is that there is no cure.
There are several ways that the progression of arthritis can be slowed down, but this progression can’t be stopped or reversed.
Unfortunately, this means that once you start experiencing the symptoms of arthritis, you’ll be experiencing them for the rest of your life.
With that said, living with arthritis isn’t impossible.
There are several treatments that can reduce the effects of arthritis and even slow its progression (though we’ll look at these a bit more closely later on).
So while some more uncommon forms of arthritis can be severe, there are many ways that arthritis symptoms can be managed.
As mentioned already, the most common symptoms of arthritis are swollen, stiff, and painful joints.
However, there are several other symptoms that are shown in many different types of arthritis.
Along with the joints themselves being swollen and painful, the skin above the affected joints can become stretched, red, and warm.
This further contributes to the stiffness caused by arthritis as it limits the mobility of the skin surrounding your joints.
Your joints can also become more tender – so while the actual joint is swollen and stiff, the surrounding area may be tender and painful to touch.
Movement restrictions can come in several different forms depending on the type of arthritis.
For example, swollen and stiff joints caused by osteoarthritis reduce mobility by limiting the amount that the joint is able to move.
Meanwhile, rheumatoid arthritis limits movement by causing inflammation in joints such as the fingers and feet; this doesn’t just make it more difficult to move these joints freely, but it can even lead to deformity in the affected joints as the inflammation shifts them out of shape.
In some rare cases, arthritis can even lead to muscle deterioration.
On top of further causing mobility issues, this can cause muscle weakness and loss of grip strength.
This is uncommon, however, and most cases of arthritis won’t lead to muscle wasting.
How Is Arthritis Treated?
Living with arthritis doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a life of pain and stiffness, however, and there are many ways that arthritis symptoms can be slowed and/or mitigated.
The most common treatment of arthritis is using anti-inflammatory medication.
This reduces the swelling in the affected joints to limit the pain and grants more mobility.
These medications aren’t a fix-all, however, and have their limitations – for instance, medication can’t undo the effects of arthritis or stop it from progressing.
Steroids can also be used to manage arthritis symptoms as they produce anti-inflammatory chemicals in your body, improve your immune system, and reinforce damaged muscle tissue.
Another way arthritis is treated is through lifestyle changes.
Exercise and physiotherapy can play a big part in mitigating the effects of arthritis, as can improvements to diet.
Other physical treatments include warm baths and showers to reduce pain and swelling, hot or cold compresses, and even just good-old rest.
Sometimes the best way to help your body is to let it relax a bit!
So there you have it! Now you know everything there is to know about what arthritis is, how serious it is, and some of the ways that it can be treated.
Living with arthritis can be a pain, but there are ways to limit and slow its progression so it won’t interfere too much with your daily life.
While there can be some severe cases that are harder to deal with, there are resources available to help you deal with anything arthritis throws at you.