Arthritis or inflammation of the joints is a painful condition that can be debilitating in the long run if not treated. However, with lifestyle changes and medications, a huge difference can be made not only on the physical pain but also the emotional pain of limitation of movement experienced by patients.
The joint, or the space between two bones, when inflamed, leads to arthritis. It is comprated of wear and tear of cartilage that provides a cushioning effect to the joint and also acts as a shock absorber. When it is damaged, redness, pain, limited ability to move, stiffness, and swelling occurs.
There are many kinds of this inflammation. Reasons can be wear and tear with age, broken bone, infection like in gonococcal arthritis, or an auto immune disease where the body's own immune system fails to recognize its tissue and attacks it like systemic lupus erythrematosus. When the inflammation fails to resolve with treatment, it becomes chronic, Osteoarthritis being the most common of its kind.
However, one should not lose hope as treatment strategies do exist. Lifestyle changes are consistent with low impact aerobics, training for muscle tone, and some exercises to increase flexibility of motion.
Physical therapy may also be recommended including the use of massage with heat or ice. Splints are used to support joints that lose their position. This is especially true for rheumatoid arthritis.
Other simple things to bear in mind are not to stay in one position for a long time and avoid positions that exacerbate the painful joints. Try to lose weight, especially if the joint pain is in the legs or feet. Get an adequate amount of sleep to prevent flare ups. Meditation to reduce stress may also help. Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables to meet the daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E. It is also recommended to eat foods enriched with omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, herring, flaxseed, rapeseed oil, soybeans , pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
However, these changes alone can not make a difference as well as medicines can, but the medicines need to be monitored for their side effects, especially if used over a long period of time. Over the counter medications like acetaminophen are the first options, the excess of which causes liver damage. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used as pain relieving agents like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. These have the potential risk of stomach ulcers, intestinal bleeding, heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage and should be used with care.
There are some prescription medicines also available if the above regimens do not work. Biologics are included in this category, which improve the quality of life for the patients but are not without side effects. Steroids may also be used, which are either applied directly into the joint or given orally. Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic drugs are used to treat autoimmune arthritis. Immuno suppressants are used as a last resort.
If the medicinal approach does not work then surgery of the joint can also be done to replace the joint or arthroplasty to rebuild the joint.
Conclusively, no matter how debilitating this disease sounds, one should never lose hope and try to prevent it if family history is present and adopt a lifestyle to avoid chronic complications.