Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints due to inflammation or infection in the joint lining or cavity. Swelling occurs because of the increased secretion of synovial fluid, i.e., fluid that lubricates the joints, to facilitate smooth movement of the bones in the joint.
Types of arthritis:
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage to break down due to excessive wear and tear. Cartilage is the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of the bones where they meet to form a joint in order to protect the bone surfaces from scraping over each other as they move. As the cartilage decreases, bones grind directly on bone, creating friction and pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the joint or the joint capsule. The lining or synovial membrane is inflamed and swollen.
Other inflammatory conditions are:
a. Gout: when the patient’s uric acid levels in the blood are too high, they form uric acid crystals, which are deposited in joint cavities, causing inflammation.
b. Autoimmune conditions: like lupus or psoriasis
Symptoms include joint pain (arthralgia) and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The joint may be red and swollen, allowing restricted, painful motions and making it difficult to perform routine activities and walk or sit comfortably. In severe cases, joints may get deformed. Elderly or obese patients or those with previous joint injuries have a tendency to develop arthritis.
In addition to laboratory tests to analyze blood and urine, a sample of synovial or joint fluid may be aspirated from the joint using a needle in order to determine the cause of arthritis. Ultrasound, x rays, CT scans, and MRIs are done to visualize the joint cavities. Treatments include pain relievers and physical therapy as well as specific measures to deal with the causative agent of joint pain. In severe cases, surgery may be required for joint repair or replacement.
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