Arthritis is a joint disorder featuring inflammation. A joint is an area of the body where two bones meet. A joint functions to allow movement of the body parts it connects. Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis is frequently accompanied by joint pain. Joint pain is referred to as arthralgia.
Arthritis is classified as one of the rheumatic diseases. These are conditions that are different individual illnesses, with differing features, treatments, complications, and prognosis. They are similar in that they have a tendency to affect the joints, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons, and many have the potential to affect internal body areas as well. There are many forms of arthritis (over 100 have been described so far, and the number is growing).
Risk factors for arthritis include the following:
Age: The risk of developing many types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis (the most common type), increases with age.
Genetics: Most types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and ankylosing spondylitis, have a genetic (inherited) component.
Gender: Most types of arthritis are more common in females. Some types, such as gout and ankylosing spondylitis, are more common in men.
Overweight and obesity: Excess weight predisposes to many types of arthritis due to added wear and tear on the joints.
Injuries: Injured joints are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Infection: Many infections can attack the joints and cause arthritis.
Occupation: Occupations involving repetitive movements can predispose to the development of osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Arthritis mainly causes pain around your joints.
- One or more joints that are swollen or stiff
- Joints that look red or feel warm to the touch
- Trouble moving
- Problems doing everyday tasks
The symptoms can be constant, or they may come and go. They can range from mild to severe. More-severe cases may lead to permanent joint damage.
Types of Arthritis
In osteoarthritis, the cushions on the ends of your bones, called cartilage, wear away. That makes the bones rub against each other. You might feel pain in your fingers, knees, or hips.
It usually happens as you age. But if underlying causes are to blame, it can begin much sooner. For example, an athletic injury like a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or a fracture near a joint can lead to arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. This can damage the joint surface and underlying bone.
RA mostly targets your fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet, and ankles. It can give you pain, swelling, stiffness, and trouble with moving. You may also have:
- Weight loss
- Eye inflammation
- Bumps under the skin called nodules
- Lung inflammation
Gout is another form of arthritis that can be very painful. The uric acid buildup in the body causes needle-like crystal deposits to form in your joints. You might notice lumps under your skin called tophi.
A lot of people see the first symptoms of gout in their big toe, which can get swollen, sore, red, and warm. Other areas that gout can attack include:
- Foot instep
Bouts of gout can come and go. The pain might become constant if you don’t get the condition treated.
You can treat it with medication, but you’ll also need to control your weight, limit alcohol, and cut down on meats and fish that have chemicals called purines.
Ankylosing spondylitis affects the spine.
Lupus is a long-lasting, autoimmune disease that can damage almost any part of the body, including joints and skin.
Psoriatic arthritis is related to the skin condition, psoriasis. It’s often mild, but can sometimes be serious.
Rheumatoid Factor (RF)
A rheumatoid factor is a group of proteins your body creates when your immune system attacks healthy tissue.
Anti-cyclic Citrullinated Peptide (anti-CCP)
Proteins your body makes when inflammation is present. You’ll probably have it done along with the RF test. This test offers a way to catch RA in its early stages. Levels are high in people who have RA or those who are about to get it.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
The speed at which your red blood cells clump and fall together to the bottom of a glass tube within an hour.
C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
A protein your liver makes when inflammation is present. CRP levels often go up before you have symptoms, so this test helps doctors find the disease early. A high level suggests significant inflammation or injury in your body.
Antinuclear Antibody (ANA)
This series of tests measure the presence of certain abnormal antibodies in your blood. These tests are measured in titer, a ratio for the lowest mix of a solution and a substance at which a reaction takes place. If the ANA is positive, you may have an autoimmune disorder, but the test alone can’t make a reliable diagnosis.
A protein on the surface of white blood cells. HLA-B27 is a gene that’s linked to a group of conditions (you might hear it called a genetic marker) known as spondyloarthropathies. They involve joints and the places where ligaments and tendons attach to your bones.
Complete Blood Count (Hemogram)
- Red blood cells, which carry oxygen from your lungs to your body
- White blood cells, which fight infection
- Hematocrit, a measurement of how much red blood is in your system
- Haemoglobin, a protein that helps your blood carry oxygen
- Platelets, which help your blood clot
Creatine Kinase (CK)
Levels of the muscle enzyme creatine phosphokinase (CPK). You might have an inflammatory muscle disease. Higher levels of CPK can also show up after trauma, injections into a muscle, muscle disease due to an underactive thyroid, and while taking certain medications such as cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.
Proteins that clump together when they’re exposed to cold and dissolve when they’re warm.
There are three types of cryoglobulins:
- Type I is more common in cancer
- Type II is usually seen with hepatitis C or viral infections
- Type III is more likely to mean an autoimmune disease
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