Arthritis Isn't for the Weak

Health & FitnessMedicine

  • Author David Creek
  • Published February 11, 2020
  • Word count 569

All signs point to the joints

Someone in your life most likely suffers from some form of arthritis, especially now that it is winter in San Diego. Those suffering complain about pain, stiffness, swelling of joints, redness, and decreased range of motion.

Arthritis is basically a breakdown or wearing out of the cartilage, which is the flexible connective tissue that absorbs the shock and stresses we put on our joints.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), and symptoms can be brought on by a variety of things. Causes might include everything from normal wear and tear to obesity to age to an infection or injury. A family history of the disease ups the risk of developing it.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system attacks the synovial membrane or lining of the joint capsule. This causes swelling and inflammation which can severely damage or even destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.

Although scientists have found genetic markers that greatly increase your chances of developing RA, what causes the immune system to attack remains a mystery.

"I'm no spring chicken. The same arthritis that ate up my left hip that finally got replaced hasn't stopped there... And touring is a lot of work. I'm impressed when I see people like Eric Clapton out there. Gee whiz, Eric, give me a break! I know it's gotta hurt somewhere."

-Steve Perry (songwriter and former lead singer - Journey)

Let me explain the pain

Symptoms of arthritis vary. Those who have or are developing OA may experience pain in the joints after repetitive use or motion. Swelling, pain and stiffness after periods of inactivity, or perhaps a feeling of warmth and even creaking of the joints may occur.

Arthritis oftentimes affects the knees, sometimes due to obesity, which could cause a limp. On the other hand, OA of the spine can show itself as numbness or tingling of the affected limbs.

Not all with OA will experience dramatic symptoms. One patient may be debilitated with pain while someone else may have few effects, even though x-rays show a severe degeneration of the joints. Some symptoms may briefly appear and disappear, while some pain-free remissions may last years.

RA is a long-term disease and symptoms, as with OA, vary from person to person. Generally, RA starts in the hands, but can also show up in the neck, wrists, shoulders, feet, knees, hips and even the jaw. Unlike OA, rheumatoid arthritis follows a symmetrical pattern, showing up on both sides of the body simultaneously.

RA can sometimes be misdiagnosed. The accompanying fatigue mimics anemia. Other symptoms, like muscle aches, poor appetite and just feeling plain bad can also be symptoms of depression. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns that you might have RA, because a simple blood test can rule out anemia.

Other effects of RA can include rheumatoid nodules. These are bumps under the skin of the elbows but can show up on other parts of your body, like the back of your head, spine and tendons. They usually aren’t painful.

RA can also affect other areas like the eyes, heart and lungs, immune system, mucous membranes and bones and muscle.

If you believe you may have arthritis, see your doctor. If diagnosed with the disease, your physician can provide you with the proper treatment and answer any questions you may have.

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