There are more than 70 million people in America these days who suffer the pain and discomfort of arthritis. That means one in four people is affected by this crippling disease. Two of the most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis. Each of these is caused by different factors.
Osteoarthritis develops over time as the cartilage between bones wears away. Because the cushioning deteriorates, the bones begin grating against each other causing pain. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease which typically presents itself between the ages of 25 and 50, although even children can experience the onset of this disorder of the immune system.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis generally begin as stiffness and soreness around the joints of the hands, knees, ankles and feet. As it progresses, joints can become inflamed causing loss of motion. Sometimes, deformity occurs as the grinding and wearing away continue in a less than uniform fashion. Every joint in the body can be affected by arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects all joints in the body, and the symptoms presented are generally pain, swelling, stiffness, skin redness, weight loss, fatigue, and even a low grade fever. Along with these symptoms, it has the effect of making one feel sick all over. This is a very debilitating disease, but there are often periods of remission when the symptoms subside and the person suffering from it can go about leading a normal life.
When speaking of arthritis, we are not talking about one single disease but rather a whole range of different conditions. Along with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis there are pseudo-gout, gout, polymyalgia rheumatica, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosus and Reiter’s disease among others. There are actually more than 100 different conditions that belong in the category of disease we know as arthritis.
The natural response of the body is inflammation when it is attacking foreign invaders like bacteria or trying to heal itself when things go wrong. It is this inflammation that causes the pain. While most people just want the pain to abate, the best treatment options do not just focus on relieving pain but rather to focus on what is causing the inflammation.
Treatment options vary according to the type of arthritis and its severity. Disease-modifying medications are showing promise in slowing the progress of arthritis while relieving symptoms in certain patients. Other treatment options include the administration of cartilage sparing drugs, biologic remedies and cartilage growing drugs. The way these medications work is to block the destructive effects certain enzymes have on joints. When the specific processes of this disease are targeted, symptoms can be relieved and healing of the damage can occur while reducing the amount of side effects.