The word: Arthritis means inflammation of joint. But Arthritis is a name that we put on a spectrum of diseases. We can divide Arthritis into a few groups to better understand them.
Osteoarthritis is the condition due to degenerative changes of joints where the joints are affected by the wear and tear effect over time. High physical demand and pressure on the joint, genetic predisposition or trauma may be the contributing factors. In this condition, the contact surface of the the two bone ends that make the joint are eroded and the covering cartilage gets damaged. This causes irritation of the bone ends and the joint becomes painful. Finger joints, knees and hips are the most common joints that are affected by this condition and tenderness, swelling and deformity may result over time. Strengthening the surrounding muscles of the joint can provide support for the joint. Some visco-supplementation injections are used in joint space to provide a lubricated joint environment so the joint can move with less pain. In advanced osteoarthritis, joint replacement surgeries or fusion or fixing the affected joint can be done.
Inflammatory Arthritis: In this condition the body becomes active to attack the joint through a mistaken over activity of the immune system. It is like our immune system would make a mistake about the identity of the joint tissue and recognize it as foreign and non self tissue. As a result of this process inflammation, pain, swelling and deformity starts. This can lead into total dysfunction of the joints. The inflammatory elements released into the joint environment cause pain. A proper investigation needs to be done to determine the proper diagnosis. The most common form of this disease is Rheumatoid Arthritis. Proper medications include agents from anti inflammatory family. There are some medications called Biological agents used for these diseases that are aimed on changing the body’s inflammatory response behaviours. Medications that modify the disease are used to control the progression of this disease. Proper diet would be important for this disease to reduce inflammation. High refined carbohydrates and heavy fatty food can increase the inflammation.
Gout: High protein diet in genetically susceptible patients may lead into Gout. Gout was known as the disease of rich people as a sign of eating too much meat. When protein is metabolized the by-product of it is called Uric Acid. This acid is excreted through the kidney. However, it can turn into crystals and get deposited in joints when the serum level of Uric Acid increases. The body is attacked by white blood cells of these crystals and as a result acute inflammation happens. This can present as a very tender joint. Foot joints or knees are the most common joints affected by this condition. Reduced consumption of protein, drinking water, using anti inflammatory medications or using uric acid excreting medications can be used to improve this condition.
Septic Arthritis: This is an infection of joints. Germs can come to joints through our blood stream or can enter the joint from a wound. Septic arthritis in considered a medical emergency and needs to be treated right away. Infected joint becomes swollen, red and hot with limited range of motion along with pain. Usually the diagnosis is through blood work and evaluation of the fluid drawn from the joint for bacteria. IV antibiotics are chosen based on the results of these tests to fight the infections.
Seronegative Inflammatory Arthritis: Many diseases belong to this group. Some famous names are Lupus, Ankylosing spondylitis, Psoritic arthritis, Behchet disease and Reiter’s disease. These are inflammatory joint disease that are in the group in auto-immune diseases. The body’s immune system attacks the joints. However, the usual inflammation detecting tests are negative in these cases and for this reason they are called seronegative diseases. The resulted inflammation causes the pain. A thorough evaluation by a Rheumatologists is needed for diagnosis of these diseases and their treatment.
Please note that this classification is only for the purposes of making the subject easier to work with. The actual scientific classification is a bit more complicated and expanded, however, these are the most common types of arthritis that are mentioned here.