At present, there are approximately 37 million Americans who are unduly suffering from the pains brought about by arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. But what exactly is arthritis and why is this troublesome disease so painful to bear?
Arthritis refers to a wide range of joint problems, which bring about pain, swelling and stiffness. In layman's terms, arthritis simply means the inflammation of a joint. While this disease can strike virtually anyone regardless of age, arthritis is more common among older people.
There are many types of arthritis. At present, there are approximately 100 different types of arthritis and each one has its own set of symptoms. As to what triggers the onset of most of these, no one really knows. However, there seems to be an apparent connection between them and heredity, hormonal imbalance and/or other immune system problems. Among the most widely known forms of arthritis, which affect the majority of the population, are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and lupus.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily brought about by the inflammation of the membrane lining the joints. Its symptoms include pain, stiffness and swelling in multiple joints and strikes the hands, wrists and feet. This type of arthritis is not an inevitable component of the aging process and is noticeably most common in women aged between 30 and 40.
- Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is caused by the breakdown of the joint cartilages as brought about by old age. As we age, it is inevitable that the cartilages will eventually be worn away causing the bones to rub against each other. This constant friction aggravates the joints and leads to the hardening of the bones beneath the cartilages and the formation of bone spurs around the affected joints. Osteoarthritis commonly manifests in the fingers, hips and knees.
- Gout develops when the body fails to metabolize purines (naturally occurring chemicals found in certain foods such as liver, kidney and anchovies). In cases of gout, uric acid crystals begin to accumulate in the affected joints bringing about the onset of burning pain, stiffness and swelling. Gout commonly affects the big toes, ankle, knees, wrists and elbows and was observed to be more common in men than in women. This disease commonly affects overweight and physically inactive men over the age of 35.
- Lupus. If gout is more prevalent in men, lupus tends to affect women more than their male counterparts. It is a unique medical condition wherein the body's own immune system attacks the body's healthy cells. Among the symptoms of this disease are joint pains, mouth sores and fatigue.
The advent of arthritis may be impossible to avoid. The best that anyone can do is try to prevent the onset of undue pain which accompanies the disease. This can be done by following these simple suggestions:
- Adopt a regular exercise routine. Regular exercise may help relieve or prevent arthritic pains. Moderate physical activities strengthen the muscles around the joints, help nourish the joint cartilages and facilitate the elimination of metabolic wastes. However, it is best to avoid repeated jarring activities such as high-impact aerobic exercises. These can only aggravate the pain.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts on more stress on the joints. Maintaining a healthy weight, on the other hand, can help retard the onset and progress of arthritis.