There are over one hundred different forms of arthritis, though most people are familiar with only a few of them. One of the most commonly heard terms is rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatory disease that affects joints and causes them to become crooked and appear as if fingers are growing almost sideways. This type of arthritis affects over two million Americans every year.
While it's unknown exactly what causes rheumatoid arthritis, it is known that the condition damages the synovial tissue that connects bones and joints in the hands, feet, and anywhere else in the body where bending is allowed. With this condition, the synovial tissue, or membrane, losses its smooth surface and texture and begins to develop extra tissue that is called pannus. This formation causes an excess of enzymes that will eventually destroy surrounding cartilage, bone and other soft tissues associated with joints, and the result is painful.
Inflamed areas, especially in tendons, can cause shortening, and if tendons rupture, joint strength and stability is severely impaired. While in most cases, rheumatoid arthritis strikes older people, it is also found in those as young as twenty years old. Most cases of this type of arthritis develop between the ages of 20 and 45, though that's just the norm. In many scenarios, the condition runs in families, suggesting a strong genetic link.
Since many different types of arthritis mirror signs and symptoms, it's important to write down your symptoms, their duration, and the course of the symptoms as far as length of time you've been feeling them, in order to help your doctor determine which form of arthritis you may be suffering from. Most people don't realize they have developed rheumatoid arthritis because it starts off feeling like a flu bug.
However, eventually, multiple joints are affected, usually on one side of the body. The most common areas of attack are joints in the fingers, at the base of the fingers, wrist, elbows and knees. Ankle joints and bone joints of the feet may also be affected.
Many people who hit their forties feel morning stiffness that eases as the day progresses, but most types of arthritis also starts off that way. One of the best ways to distinguish normal aging and stiff joints from rheumatoid arthritis is experiencing warmth in the joint area.
Another indication that arthritis may be present is the appearance of reddened and swollen joints that feel tender and painful when touched. Flare-ups may last for several days, or several weeks, and may often grow worse in winter months.
Determining the course of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis depends on many different factors, such as symptoms and the stage of development of the disease. Taking an active part in the treatment of symptoms is one of the best things you can do if diagnosed with this type of arthritis.
Exercise and joint strengthening exercise throughout your life will help keep many forms of arthritis at bay, and mediations and other treatments may ease pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, it's important for people to follow the course of action prescribed by a rheumatologist for optimum benefits.