Of all the reasons Americans visit their doctors each year, arthritisis one of the most common. Arthritis affects a large portion of the adult population. This term refers to many kinds of joint problems accompanied by certain symptoms, including swelling, pain, and stiffness. However, there are three types of arthritis that are more common than others, including osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and gout.
While some types of arthritis are genetically based, others result from chemical imbalances or overactive immune systems. No matter what type of arthritis you have, though, they all affect the joints, resulting in pain and discomfort.
OA is a degenerative form of arthritis and the most common form of the condition. It typically affects older individuals or anyone with severe joint injuries. Typically, it develops randomly for no reason at all and causes the cartilage in your joints to wear away. When this happens, the ends of your bones may rub together, causing immense pain for some.
RA, on the other hand, results from the thickening or inflammation of a joint's lining and is typically triggered by viral and bacterial infections and abnormal immune systems that destroy your body's tissue, especially your joints.
In some cases, gout is the result of poor genetics. However, the most common way people get gout is due to a number of other, more controllable factors, including:
Gout occurs when your body accumulates uric acid. When this happens, sodium urate crystals build up and collect in the tissue, and this results in inflammation.
Arthritis symptoms vary depending on what type you have. Some common symptoms of OA include:
- Joint Pain After or During Use
- Joint Discomfort During or Before Weather Changes
- Loss of Joint Flexibility
- Swelling in the Joints
Common symptoms of RA may include the following:
- Joint Pain or Swelling
- Overall Stiffness or Aching After Long Periods of Rest
- Swollen, Painful Joints
Common symptoms of gout may include:
- Joint Inflammation
- Severe Pain, Swelling, and Redness
- Groin Pain
- Blood in Urine
If you think you may have arthritis, visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis. When determining your diagnosis, your doctor will likely conduct a physical exam and discuss your medical history to determine the scope of your arthritis. During the examination, he or she will also look for signs of swelling, tenderness, or limited ranges of motion. There are no specific tests to diagnose the condition, which is why an appointment with your doctor is so important. In some cases, your doctor may recommend X-rays or MRIs to get a closer look at a joint or another part of the body to help determine what type of arthritis you have.
Unlike many other conditions, there is no cure for arthritis. Treatment options are usually designed to help reduce inflammation and pain, and they may incorporate medications, physiotherapy, and other exercise programs.
Because there is no cure for arthritis, a diagnosis may be difficult news to swallow. Depending on the type of arthritis you have and what part of your body is most affected, the condition can greatly limit your day-to-day activities and cause debilitating pain. Because of this, there are support groups and counseling services available to anyone living with the condition.