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Arthritis Basics

By Adam Waxler

Arthritis affects people in a variety of ways. Joints may be stiff and creak. For others who suffer from arthritis, joints might crack suddenly, like knees upon standing. For many arthritis sufferers, pain occurs, like when trying to open a jar.

What's it all about? Let's take a look at the basics of arthritis and learn more.

Arthritis actually means "joint inflammation and has over 100 related conditions or forms of the disease. If arthritis is left untreated, it can advance, resulting in joint damage that cannot be reversed. Therefore, early detection of arthritis and arthritis treatment are important.

The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Although both type of arthritis have similar symptoms, both happen for different reasons. When joints are overused and misused, the results can be osteoarthritis (OA). What happens is that the cushioning cartilage that protects the joint breaks down, resulting in the bones rubbing together. This generally happens in the knees, but can be found in the hips, spine and hands as well. And, only in the later stages of osteoarthritis will a person most often feel pain, after quite a bit of cartilage is lost.

The second type, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), refers to the body's immune system attacking joint tissue. Still not fully understood in the medical community, rheumatoid arthritis most often starts in a person's hands, wrists and feet. Then rheumatoid arthritis advances to shoulders, elbows and hips.

Similar symptoms include pain, stiffness, fatigue, weakness, slight fever, and inflamed tissue lumps under the skin. And both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis generally develop symmetrically, i.e. affecting the same joints on both the left and right sides of the body.

A difference in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis to note is with swelling. With rheumatoid arthritis, people report "soft and squishy swelling. While with osteoarthritis, people report "hard and bony swelling.

Another difference between the two types of arthritis is that a person is more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis if a sibling or parent had it. While a person with a history of joint damage, either an injury or chronic strain, runs a higher risk for developing osteoarthritis.

Arthritis can affect any age group. However, while there is no specific age for arthritis sufferers, arthritis seems to focus on those over 45 years of age.

And, while neither gender is immune, a reported 74 percent of osteoarthritis cases (or just over 15 million) occur with women and a slightly lower percentage of rheumatoid arthritis cases occur with women.

Furthermore, your health, particularly your weight, plays a role in the development of arthritis. People with excess weight tend to develop osteoarthritis, especially in the knees when reaching over 45 years of age. However, losing weight can turn the odds around almost by half. Regular activity combined with exercise also reduces risk of arthritis, strengthening joint muscles and reducing joint wear.

Although there are no cure-alls for arthritis, there are a variety of pain relief treatment strategies. Aside from medications, remedies, replacement alternatives and other helpful treatment options, the four main arthritis relief aids are gentle exercise, good nutrition, a positive attitude, and rest. Education also plays a huge role to dispel "old wives tales and myths that "nothing can be done about arthritis."

If you suspect you may have arthritis, it is advisable to seek medical advice. The sooner you detect the arthritis and the type of arthritis the better off you'll be. Furthermore, your symptoms may not be caused by arthritis, but may be caused by something else like a virus or tendonitis or other similar problem that could potentially worsen if left untreated.

Copyright 2006 Adam Waxler

About The Author
Adam Waxler publishes a series of health & fitness information products and web sites.


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