Arthritis is all around us; it impacts individuals, families, employers and the national economy. It is the leading cause of disability in the US with around 54 million diagnosed cases. This figure is expected to rise to 78 million by 2040.
In the US, osteoarthritis affects 31 million people and it is more common among those who also have other conditions – 49 per cent of heart disease sufferers, 47 per cent of diabetics and 31 per cent of obese people also have arthritis.
What is arthritis?
It is a common term and an informal way of describing joint pain or swelling. However, there are 100 types of arthritis. People of all ages, races and sexes may be affected. Symptoms include swelling around the joint, pain and stiffness with a decreased range of movement. Chronic patients may develop permanent joint damage and limitation of daily activities.
Types of arthritis include: degenerative – often osteoarthritis in which the protective cartilage surrounding the ends of the bones becomes damaged; inflammatory – inflammation of the joint and surrounding tissues, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) among others; infectious, presenting as infection in a joint; and metabolic, also known as gouty arthritis.
What is the treatment?
Treatment depends on the type of arthritis; however, the common goal is to keep joints moving properly by relieving the pain, stiffness and swelling. Medical management can be achieved through taking proper medications like NSAIDs (for example aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenac, etc). Surgical treatments comprise arthroscopic procedures such as joint debridement and ligament reconstruction. Osteotomy may be used to correct deformity and, for damaged joints with deformity, replacement surgery is advised. This is the most successful surgery of recent times. Advancements in computer-assisted and robotic-assisted joint replacement surgery have led to the prolonging of implant survival to more than 20 years.
Can arthritis be prevented?
Some kinds of arthritis are preventable but some are not. The progression of osteoarthritis can be arrested with appropriate exercise, weight reduction and correct posture. Gout can be prevented with a change in lifestyle and eating habits. In children with rheumatic fever, penicillin prevents arthritis. Some diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and different collagen diseases such as SLE are not preventable. But, in such cases, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment helps to prevent the progression of disease.
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