You bend down to pick up a bag of groceries, and your knees feel like they’re on fire. You type on your keyboard, and lightning bolts of pain shoot through your wrist. What’s going on? If you’ve recently run a marathon or penned a novel, you might experience soreness from overusing certain joints. If you endure pain daily, however, you may suffer from a form of arthritis.
So how many types of arthritis are there? And is there a cure?
Let’s take a closer look at the most common forms of this disease, as well as a few treatment options that might help.
Doctors sometimes refer to osteoarthritis as “degenerative joint disease,” often affecting the knees and hips. The condition can strike any joint, however. Osteoarthritis typically develops in individuals aged 40 and older, although people of any age may experience it. Over time, the cartilage that cushions the joint wears down. Approximately 27 million Americans struggle with some form of this disease.
You run a 46% risk of developing this condition in your knees during your lifetime. Osteoarthritis also deteriorates the ligaments and tendons surrounding the joints. It causes inflammation of the lining of the affected area. Treatments for this disorder include taking over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription anti-inflammatory medications. Experts also recommend exercise and physical therapy to restore range of motion.
If you suspect you have osteoarthritis, see your doctor. They’ll perform an X-ray to identify damage to your joints. If they confirm you have the condition, try the following techniques to find relief:
- Drink turmeric tea: Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb. You can also up your consumption of foods containing this particular spice. Indian curries rely on the plant for the signature yellow hue and flavor.
- Lose weight: If you’re overweight or obese, the extra pounds can place stress on your joints when you move. Reduce your consumption of fatty, ultra-processed foods and eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise: When you work out, your body increases the flow of synovial fluid to your joints. Synovial fluid has an egg white-like consistency, and it fills the pockets in your remaining cartilage. Strive for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder. In this condition, your body’s natural defense system attacks healthy tissue. This form of the disease affects other organs like your eyes, as well as your joints.
RA can strike at any age, even during childhood. Symptoms of the disease include red, swollen joints and stiffness that increases after prolonged inactivity. The condition may also affect your appetite or cause fatigue.
Treatments for RA include anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroids. Many doctors prescribe disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to slow the progression of joint damage. Biologics are a subset of DMARDs, and most patients take these via injection or infusion. This class of medications can weaken your immune system, and you may need to cease use if you get a cold or the flu.
If you suspect you have RA, see your doctor as soon as possible. The earlier you start treatment, the more you can minimise joint damage. Your doctor will give you a blood test to determine if you have the rheumatic factor. Holistic therapies for RA parallel those for osteoarthritis. If land-based exercise proves difficult due to pain, try an aquatic aerobics class or go swimming. The buoyancy of the water takes most of the weight off your knees and hips, making movement easier.
3. Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, itchy patches on your body. Approximately 7.5 million Americans struggle with this disorder, and 30% of those people develop psoriatic arthritis.
Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis combine those of psoriasis with joint inflammation. The symmetric form of this disease impacts at least five joints on both sides of your body. The asymmetric version impacts fewer than five and may only affect one side. The condition can cause swelling in your fingers and toes, and your nails may separate from their beds.
Like RA, the psoriatic version of the disease stems from an overactive immune system. Doctors use many of the same drugs to treat both conditions. Some people with psoriasis find getting out in the sun improves skin lesions, but heat exacerbates symptoms in others.
4. Other Conditions With Elements Of Arthritis
Other diseases can cause arthritis-like symptoms. Some of these conditions include the following:
- Gout: In this disease, a buildup of uric acid causes arthritis in the feet.
- Lupus: Like RA, lupus is an autoimmune disease. It attacks multiple body tissues, including the joints.
- Fibromyalgia: This little-understood nerve condition causes widespread pain throughout the body.
- Ankylosing spondylitis: This form of arthritis attacks the spine.
- Reynaud’s disease: This disorder causes your blood vessels in your fingers to contract when you’re cold or stressed, causing pain.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: This form of osteoarthritis impacts your wrists. It often occurs if you type or work with your hands often.
Living Better With Arthritis
With early treatment and lifestyle changes, you can live a full and happy life despite arthritis. Talk to your physician and adopt a healthier eating plan and exercise regimen to see results.