Arthritis is a term that includes a group of disorders that affect you joints and muscles. The symptoms include joint pain, inflammation and limited movement of joints. Most people over the age of 50 show signs of arthritis. Blood tests and X-rays can confirm arthritis. The condition can be managed through a combination of medication, exercise, rest, weight-management, nutrition and, in some cases, surgery.
Mrs Dixit, ‘Dixit Miss’ to hundreds of her students who still remember her as their ramrod straight, elegant teacher of history who was much respected and loved. Now touching 80, the elderly lady has to walk with support, as movement has become very painful owing to arthritis. Mrs Dixit lost her husband to a brain stroke a few years back, and with her daughter settled in Bangalore, she now lives alone. She manages with household help, and the spirited old lady has not let the pitfalls of life affect her. However, lately chronic pain has restricted her movements severely and she is finding it difficult to even perform simple activities like cooking and gardening which keep her happy…
A Mrs Dixit exists is almost every household in our country. With age comes gray hair, wisdom and joint pain! Arthritis, however, is not restricted only to the elderly. Increasingly younger people are becoming victims of the condition that was earlier equated with growing older. And winter is the time when aching joints begin giving more trouble. Dipping temperatures increase the chances of swelling and fluid build-up in joints.
What causes joint pain?
Arthritis is the most common reason for joint pain. It mainly affects wrists, hands, hips and knees. The two main kinds are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The former is more common in the elderly popular. Rheumatoid arthritis affects women more than men and can be debilitating. It causes inflammation and fluid built up in joins causing severe pain.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is caused by joint damage. Joints are covered by a protective tissue called cartilage. Cartilage helps in keeping the movement of the joint fluid. When this cartilage breaks down, it causes the bones that form the joint to rub against each other, which in turn results in stiffness and pain. Osteoarthritis is also referred to as degenerative disease as it usually occurs in older people as a natural process of wear and tear. It is a condition that can occur in any joint in the body. The areas most commonly affected, however, are hands, fingertips, knees, hips and spine.
What is Rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder. When immune systems mistake the soft lining around joints to be threat and attack them, it causes fluid build-up in the joints leading to stiffness and pain. It is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect more than just your joints. It can affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.
- Warm, tender, swollen joints
- Stiffness in joints that worsens after a period of inactivity
- Weight loss, extreme tiredness and losing weight
The severity of the symptoms vary from person to person and may increase and decrease.
Other causes of joint pain
- Damage due to injury
- Infections like mumps, influenza, hepatitis
When do you need to see a Doctor?
When you have unexplained joint pain, you should see a Doctor. Redness or swelling in the area around the joints, along with severe pain that persists for more than three days, needs medical attention. Emergency treatment may be required if:
- You have injured yourself
- The joint appears to be disfigured
- Joint swelling occurs suddenly
- Joint becomes completely immobile
- The pain is intolerable
How do I manage my joint pain at home?
Please remember chronic joint pain cannot be eliminated. However, you can partly manage it to keep the pain under tolerable limits with some simple home remedies
- Pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs can help
- Stay physically active, regular light exercises help keep the pain at bay
- Stretching helps in increasing mobility of joints
- Keep your body weight under control. Obesity increases pressure on the joints
- If the pain is not due to arthritis, then a massage, hot bath and adequate rest may help
How is joint pain treated medically?
The Doctor may need to draw out the accumulated fluid to reduce inflammation. He/she might give you some medication and suggest lifestyle changes to manage your pain. Depending on the severity of the condition or effectiveness of non-invasive treatment, the Doctor may suggest surgical replacement of joint.
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