Arthritis is a general term for various body disorders that cause swelling, stiffness, joint pain and restricted motion. (x) The chances of you getting or having arthritis is pretty serious. About 50 million adults have arthritis, making it the second leading cause of disability in the United States. (x) (x) There are over 100 types of arthritis, ranging from symptoms that are only mildly painful to completely incapacitating. Osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis (PA) are the most common forms of adult arthritis. (x) At the onset, you may have arthritis pain that limits a single joint, but it can spread to other areas over time. It may also impact the lungs, kidneys and skin. (x)
Arthritis can develop because of many different conditions — from disease processes to injuries to aging. For example, your body’s immune system response causes rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, whereas osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on your joints. Any condition that puts excessive stress on joints can cause arthritis. Even healthy exercise like walking and running can place too much pressure on your joints.
Types of Arthritis
Knowing the indications of each type of arthritis can help you identify the type of arthritic condition you may be experiencing. You should visit a physician as the best way to identify the correct type of arthritis. The most common forms in adults are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Each one has particular symptoms: (x)
Osteoarthritis occurs frequently, and it’s the single most common joint disorder. (x) Accumulated damage to joint cartilage is the primary cause of OA. Cartilage is the hard, flexible coating that caps the ends of bones and allows the joints to move. It wears down over time and with damage, leading to painful and restrictive bone-to-bone contact. It can also derive from bone microfractures caused by bone-to-bone impacts. (x)
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is progressive, meaning it worsens over time, but pain hastens with bone and joint injuries. It usually causes pain and swelling in multiple joints, but some areas may show less pronounced swelling than others. The patient may not show symptoms in the beginning and eventually develop them later on. (x) Unlike other forms of arthritis, OA does not impact internal organs, only joints. (x)
- Swelling and tenderness
- Grating or crackling sounds
- Reduced flexibility
Causes of Osteoarthritis
OA is most common in the elderly, specifically primary OA. Over time, joint cartilage degenerates because it cannot repair itself as effectively. (x) There is no specific cause for primary osteoarthritis, but the medical industry mainly relates to age. (x) (x)
Secondary arthritis, on the other hand, has a cause other than just wear and tear. It can result from trauma, injury, surgery, obesity or genetics. Gout and diabetes are also common causes of secondary OA. (x) (x)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the synovial membrane surrounding the joints, causing irritation and inflammation. (x) Pain is often severe. Eventually, rheumatoid arthritis attacks both bone and cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis causes swollen and inflamed joints. Nodules will typically form on the knuckles, heels or elbows. Rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups tend to be more severe than OA and can lead to disability.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA symptoms can be mild or more severe. They include swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints. RA typically affects more than one joint at a time. It commonly affects small joints in the wrists, elbows, shoulders, jaw, feet, neck or ankles. (x) The swelling is usually distributed symmetrically. For example, when the knuckles on the left hand become inflamed, the knuckles become probably inflamed on the right hand. (x) Other symptoms include stiffness in the morning, decreased appetite, weight loss and fatigue. The symptoms may linger for years. (x)
Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA progresses in four stages, each with different courses for treatment: (x)
- 1st Stage
Joint and synovial tissue first begins to swell, and the patient starts to feel pain and stiffness.
- 2nd Stage
Synovial inflammation worsens and damages cartilage, and the patient begins to lose mobility.
- 3rd Stage
This is severe RA. Inflammation beings destroy bones along with cartilage. Pain and swelling increase, and the patient loses more mobility. It may also cause deformities in the joints.
- 4th Stage
At this stage, the patient still feels pain, swelling and stiffness. But the joints stop functioning altogether.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The exact causes of RA remain unknown. But several factors may play a role. Genetics may contribute, as well as gender and age. It is more common in women and individuals between the ages of 40 and 60. Scientists think that there may be environmental factors as well. For example, bacterial or viral infections may mistakenly cause the immune system to identify joint tissue as an invading pathogen it must destroy. Exposure to certain chemicals, air pollutants and second-hand smoke may also increase the risk. (x)
The medical industry associates rheumatoid arthritis with celiac disease. It’s an autoimmune disorder aggravated by gluten based on research that identifies increased autoimmune diseases in celiac patients. (x)
Psoriatic Arthritis (PA)
Psoriatic arthritis is common in patients with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy skin cells and causes them to grow abnormally fast. (x) Some psoriasis patients develop PA, but not all of them. Some people develop psoriatic arthritis if they do not even have psoriasis. (x)
Causes of Psoriatic Arthritis
Like rheumatoid arthritis and the skin disorder psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that develops when the immune system misidentifies proteins in the synovial membrane, surrounding the joints, and mistakes them for pathogens.
Scientists do not know what causes the identification error precisely, but they have identified several risk factors. (x) It is most common in people with psoriasis or those with a family history. People between 30 and 50 are more likely to develop PA. The symptoms worsen when you become exposed to specific triggers, such as infections, skin wounds, stress and certain medications. (x)
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
Symptoms can develop slowly or reasonably quickly, and they can be mild or severe. Common symptoms include swollen fingers and toes, fatigue, pain and tenderness in the tendons, stiffness or decreased mobility. It may also cause the nails to change. The nail may separate from the bed and look pitted, like a fungal infection. PA may also cause redness and inflammation in the eyes. (x)
Complications of Arthritis
Ignoring your aches and pains is not a good idea. Arthritis is most dangerous when left untreated. Untreated cases can cause damage to other parts of the body, not just the joints. Complications can include: (x)
- Decreased movement, loss of function and disability
- Osteoporosis (x)
- Joint destruction and deformity
- Kidney problems (x)
- Heart disease (x)
- Joint destruction and deformity
- Anemia (x)
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Spinal cord progression (x)
Preventing arthritis is not an easy goal for your body, but it is possible to reduce the risks. For example, lifestyle choices are a proactive way to minimize joint damage. (x) First, maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. Being overweight puts more pressure and stress on the joints, and excess fat destroys joints and cartilage faster. (x) Smoking tobacco is also a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis, so avoiding cigarettes can reduce your risk. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, and research states that smoking causes oxidative stress in your body, which impacts the immune system. (x)
One way to treat arthritis is with medication to help ease pain and inflammation in an arthritic flare-up. Be advised most medications have side effects and are hard on the liver. Finding natural alternatives like homeopathic treatment may prove a better overall solution. (x)
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)
NSAIDs reduce inflammation, pain and stiffness for arthritis and other similar disorders, such as tendinitis and bursitis. They come in several over-the-counter varieties, including naproxen sodium and ibuprofen. (x)
These are effective anti-inflammatory drugs, chemically similar to cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory in the body. They are also immunosuppressive and treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, asthma and allergies. (x)
- Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARD)
These drugs restrict the immune system and block inflammation to preserve the joints. However, they will not ease arthritic pain. (x)
- Surgical Procedures
Patients may also undergo surgery if the condition becomes debilitating. Common surgeries include arthroscopy, joint resurfacing and osteotomy. Arthroscopy uses a small camera to fix tears in the joint tissue, joint resurfacing replaces the joint, and osteotomy removes or adds bone to a damaged joint. (x)
Supplements for Bone & Joint Health
Supplements can act as natural remedies or treatment options for arthritis symptoms. They can help support bone and joint health and reduce inflammation, but supplements should not replace traditional treatment options. Consult a physician before implementing supplements into your diet and follow all the physician’s instructions.
Known as Indian frankincense, boswellia reduces inflammation in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. (x) As a dietary supplement, take 450 mg once or twice daily unless a physician orders otherwise.
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
- Hyaluronic Acid Powder
Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in the body. Hyaluronic acid helps keep aging cartilage hydrated and lubricated and supports the joints from extra pressure. It can help treat osteoporosis. Take 100 mg servings twice a day.
- Bamboo Extract Powder
The bamboo extract may boost collagen production and bone growth. Collagen is a vital necessity for the health of the synovial membranes around the joints. (x) As a dietary supplement, take up to 600 mg daily with water.
- D-Glucosamine Sulfate Potassium Powder
Derived from shellfish, D-glucosamine supports bone and joint health. It may reduce pain and slow joint cartilage erosion (x). As a dietary supplement, take 1,000 mg up to three times a day unless a physician recommends otherwise. Pregnant or nursing women should consult a doctor before supplementing.
- Calcium Citrate Powder
Because calcium is one of the most common nutrients in your body. For that reason, it’s imperative to maintain adequate calcium levels for your body’s health. Calcium citrate may promote bone health and help the immune system function regularly. Take 2,380 mg once or twice a day with meals or following a physician’s instructions.
- Calcium Gluconate Powder
Calcium gluconate is an immediate and easily absorbable form of calcium, vital for bone health and immune system function. As a dietary supplement, take 5,600mg once or twice daily, preferably with meals.
- Calcium Ascorbate
Calcium ascorbate is a buffered form of vitamin C combined with calcium. Vitamin C helps with collagen production, which provides muscle flexibility and keeps bone and cartilage healthy. As a dietary supplement, take 300 mg to 1,000 mg up to three times daily or as directed by a physician.
- Potassium Chloride Crystallized Powder
People with rheumatoid arthritis tend to be deficient in potassium chloride because of the medications they take to treat the condition. Reducing sodium chloride intake and substituting potassium chloride may help stabilize potassium levels (x). It can be an efficient salt substitute but consult with a physician before using potassium chloride for arthritis. The recommended dosage is 135 mg a day with food and water.
- Arnica Topical and Homeopathic Tablets
Choosing topical arnica gel may turn out positive as studies show arnica’s validity on the hands’ joints with osteoarthritis. The treatment of arnica is not substandard to ibuprofen based on a study of two groups with hand pain. 204 patients, one group, spread arnica on the hands. The other group took ibuprofen. (x)
Arnica Montana is a homeopathic process that treats pain. Arnica, taken orally and topically, is an effective measure extracted from several studies. A study using a gel applied twice everyday to the knees had a success rate of 76%, and the participants will apply again as needed. (x)
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The Bottom Line
Arthritis is a painful disorder that causes inflammation, swelling and pain in the joints. The most common forms are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are both autoimmune disorders, while osteoarthritis stems from age-related wear and tear.
Symptoms can be mild or severe and potentially debilitating. Treatment includes pain medication or surgery for severe cases. There is no definite way to prevent arthritis, but lifestyle choices can make a big difference in reducing the risk.
Supplements can also help to promote strong joints and bones with or without medical treatment. Even trying a visit to a homeopathic doctor might turn fruitful. Arnica as a homeopathic treatment is one of the most popular treatments for any joint or muscle pain your body may experience.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.