October 12 is the day we raise awareness about arthritis around the world. This celebration draws attention to a complex and multifaceted disease that is one of the leading causes of disability around the world and affects people both physically and emotionally. However, in some ways it is considered an invisible disease. With COVID-19, this has changed the world forever, and there is hope that other medical and pathological conditions will not be ignored or forgotten. October 12 is considered the day when special attention is given to this disease that affects many people.
However, there are many elements that make arthritis a unique and, yes, painful disease. Unfortunately, arthritis is confined to the elderly, and it can come in many forms.
The term arthritis itself is derived from the Greek words for joint and inflammation and covers a variety of conditions that affect the body’s joints. Arthritis has been known and recorded for centuries. The first case was reported as early as 4500 B.C. Very simply, arthritis is characterized by swelling of the joints, so that the simple act of moving can cause body pain.
These joints are sensitive to climate change, and elderly patients with arthritis report that their pain is worse in the morning, when it first appears. Younger patients may also suffer from arthritis – arthritic joint pain is generally not the general feature of juvenile arthritis, but the tendency to move or refuse to move at all, as in the case of particularly young children.
To diagnose arthritis and distinguish it from common or simple joint pain, doctors perform a battery of blood tests and x-rays. Some blood tests check for the presence of certain antibodies, because some forms of arthritis are caused by the body’s immune system attacking itself, making these forms of arthritis autoimmune diseases. X-rays, on the other hand, can reveal erosion of bone or cartilage.
Once arthritis is diagnosed, treatment can begin. Treatment may take the form of surgery or medication. People with arthritis must also undergo occupational and physical therapy to restore the use of their limbs and maintain constant blood flow. In all types of therapy, doctors ensure that the stress on the affected joints is reduced and that the pain is successfully managed.
The types of therapy to be used depend on the type of arthritis the patient has. Here are some common types.
o Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints and then moves to affect other organs in the body such as the skin, heart and lungs.
o Psoriatic arthritis is also an autoimmune disease with symptoms similar to those of rheumatoid arthritis. It is common in patients with psoriasis, a skin disease.
o Septic arthritis is the wear and tear of cartilage due to the accumulation of bacteria and the attack on the joints. It is usually caused by cuts or nicks that penetrate to the bone and are not treated or washed away.
o Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage that protects the bone. Because of the severe pain they feel, osteoarthritis patients may refuse to move, causing their muscles to atrophy.
o Gout is a form of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. People with gout should follow a low purine diet or stay away from protein-rich foods such as sardines and certain types of fish, some mussels and sweatbreads such as animal kidneys and brains, and alcohol.
If you know or live with someone who has arthritis, play a role in monitoring the patient’s progress by making sure the patient follows the treatment regimen or by monitoring the patient well after surgery. Arthritis is a disease that requires patience on the part of both the person with the disease and their caregiver, so obey all instructions and ask questions if necessary.