Arthritis is a progressive joint condition that affects an estimated 50 million people in the United States. Many people feel that arthritis is simply a product of old age. The fact is that a number of factors can contribute to the onset of arthritis pain and stiffness. The medical community is beginning to understand a great deal about this common condition, and a number of effective treatments are available.
The term “arthritis” actually refers to over a hundred different disorders that cause deterioration and damage to the joints and spine. People of any age, sex or background can experience arthritis symptoms. Arthritis causes visible changes in the joints that can be seen on x-ray or other tests that are used to provide an accurate diagnosis of the disease. It can cause swelling, tenderness and immobility in the joint and surrounding tissues, impacting lifestyles significantly.
Types of Arthritis
Although arthritis includes a broad range of conditions, the most common types of arthritis are:
- Osteoarthritis – This condition generally occurs in older people, and is caused by normal wear and tear on the joint, as the cartilage that cushions the joint bones breaks down and is worn away. Joint discomfort, swelling & stiffness often occurs in the hip or knee.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s autoimmune system begins to attack the tissue of the joints. Some evidence suggests that a bacterial or viral infection may trigger the disorder.
- Psoriatic arthritis – Psoriasis is an inflammation of the skin that can also affect the joints of the body, causing swelling in the hands, feet or other joints in the body. Psoriasis is another immune system disorder that is not well understood. However, a number of treatments are available for both the skin reactions and joint problems associated with this disease.
Traditional treatments for arthritis include over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription cox-2 inhibitors, steroid injections to reduce inflammation and hyaluronic acid injections to replace lost cartilage. Joint replacement surgery has become highly refined and has brought relief from discomfort and greater mobility to thousands of arthritis patients. However, new treatments are continually being developed to help who suffer from arthritis pain and stiffness, such as:
- New oral medications for psoriatic arthritis that target the molecules inside immune cells to reduce inflammation.
- New biologic medications are being developed to help rheumatoid arthritis patients. Until now, these helpful drugs have had to be injected, but an oral form is being developed to allow patients to take these drugs more easily.