May is the month when an effort is made to further spread awareness about arthritis, from diagnosis to the need for more research on the disease. Arthritis impacts the lives of millions of Americans, and the number is expected to climb in the coming decades from more than 50 million today. Arthritis can manifest in different forms and has the potential to impact the quality of life of sufferers, by diminishing movement and robbing them of the capacity to participate in the activities that they enjoy. Arthritis can result in permanent disability if allowed to progress without treatment.

What is Arthritis?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines arthritis as a general term for conditions that affect the joints or tissues around the joint. Over 100 arthritis conditions exist, and most types feature pain and stiffness in and around joint(s). More women suffer from arthritis than men, but it affects older people. The two most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. According to Mayo Clinic, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that damages more than just the lining of the joints; it can affect other parts of the body like the skin, heart, eyes, and lungs, and mostly affects women. Osteoarthritis features “wear and tear” of the entire joint. Some of the other common types of arthritis include gout and fibromyalgia.

Symptoms of Arthritis

Since there are numerous types of arthritis, each has its own symptoms, but pain and stiffness in and around the joint(s) are often reported as common symptoms for the vast majority of arthritis conditions. Other general signs and symptoms of arthritis related to the joints may include, swelling, redness, bumps around the joint, deformity, tenderness, and decreased range of motion.

Cause and Risk Factors For Arthritis

Scientists have not been able to pinpoint the root of all the different types of arthritis. However, gout is a result of an excess of uric acid present in the body, and it’s also possible for certain infections to lead to the development of arthritis.

The risk factors for each arthritis condition are different, but the most common risk factors include:
● Family history: If parents or siblings have an account of arthritis, it increases the risk of developing arthritis.
● Age: Middle age is around the time when arthritis (commonly osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout) typically manifests in most people, but it can emerge earlier as well.
● Sex: Women are seemingly more susceptible to developing arthritis, primarily rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia, while more men are affected by gout.
● Previous Joint Injury: An old joint injury can cause irregularities in the joint surface and make it more likely to develop arthritis.

Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis is without a cure, but it can be managed. Treatment primarily focuses on improving the symptoms of the condition, like pain relief and minimizing joint damage. Arthritis treatment may require some level of experimentation to find a treatment option that best suited for the patient’s needs.

While arthritis is not a condition that is fully understood, it is a real problem for millions of people. It’s essential to find ways to improve or maintain physical function as an arthritis sufferer to have a decent quality of life. Daily, diligent self-management of arthritis can go a long way in staying healthy and controlling the symptoms of the disease.