Arthritis is a joint disorder that causes the inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis is not a single disease – there are over 100 different forms of arthritis. It is a collective term for different individual illnesses, with different features, treatments, complications, and prognoses. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), which is mostly related to wear and tear of cartilage (osteoarthritis). Arthritis may also be associated with an overactive immune system causing inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis). Other forms of arthritis are associated with skin conditions (psoriatic arthritis), deposition of uric acid (gout), etc. Almost 50 million people around the world are affected by one or another form of arthritis.
Some of the inflammatory types of arthritis are -
Rheumatoid arthritis – the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease which mainly affects the joints. It has more severe symptoms causing pain, stiffness, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Gout – most common in men. It is caused by increased uric acid in the blood, though not everybody with high levels in their blood get gout. But when uric acid levels in the blood are too high, it may form hard crystals in your joints. Being overweight, excessive alcohol drinking or eating too much meat and fish that are high in chemicals called purines increases your chances of getting gout. Some medicines, like diuretics, can also be one of the causes. Arthritis due to gout is usually characterized by a sudden attack of burning pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.
Psoriatic arthritis - It is associated with inflammation of the skin (psoriasis).
Some of the non-inflammatory types od arthritis (injury) are -
Osteoarthritis – also called degenerative arthritis is usually caused by overuse of joints. This can be due to obesity, various sports disciplines or age. It is most common in the knees, hips, feet, and spine joints which bear weight. Cartilage covering the ends of bones serves as the body’s shock absorber. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage gradually breaks down resulting in pain when the joint is moved.
Fibromyalgia – a syndrome characterized by long-lasting extensive pain and tenderness in muscles, ligaments and tendons. It damages the joints and/or soft tissues and causes chronic pain. It does not get worse with time and is never fatal.
Backache - one of the most common health problems which can occur in both men and women at any age. It can present itself as anywhere between a mild to unbearable. It can start slowly over a period of time as a result of poor posture. It may also have a suddenly onset due to injury. Back pain can either last for few days or can remain for weeks, months and even years.
Regardless of the type, arthritis causes pain and limits the function of your joints. If your arthritis is due to inflammation of the joints then you may experience joint swelling, redness, warmth and stiffness.
With inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis, your various organs of the body may be affected. You may have fever, lymph nodes swelling, weight loss, tiredness, inability to use your hand, difficulty in walking and poor sleep.
It’s common to have pains in your muscles and joints, particularly if you give them too much strain. So how do you distinguish regular pain from early signs of arthritis because it’s imperative to diagnose the disease as soon as possible.
If you see any of these symptoms you shouldn’t put off a visit to the doctor.
If the pains last for more than a week
If you experience unexplained joint pain usually accompanied with fever
You experience difficulty in carrying out daily chores due to joint pain
Your joint pain isn’t cured by pain killers
There is swelling and stiffness in the joints
The diagnosis will be based on your symptoms, the inflamed joints affected and through blood and X-ray findings, MRI scan, CT scan, synovial fluid analysis and/or a urine test. You may have to visit your doctor several times before he can rule out other causes and confirm the diagnosis.
Mostly arthritis is more a source of irritation than a chronic ailment because it affects your everyday life. An early and accurate diagnosis prevents irreversible damage and disability.
The type of arthritis decides your treatment options. Treatment may include medications, physiotherapy, exercise, weight control and orthopedic bracing. Eroding forms of arthritis may require joint replacement surgery. Medications are given to reduce inflammation in the joint which decreases pain. There is no permanent cure for either rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.
Drugs that treat the symptoms of arthritis like pain killers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroids
Drugs that suppress the underlying inflammatory disease like disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Biologic drugs are used in treating rheumatoid arthritis or when DMARDs are ineffective.
Hydrotherapy - involves special exercises that you do in a warm-water pool.
Physiotherapy – Because of the pain, you will often avoid moving the affected joint. A physical therapist can help you work out the joint stiffness without damaging it.
Occupational therapy – Occupational therapy promotes health and well-being by teaching you how to reduce the strain on your joints during your daily activities. Your home and workplace may be modified by your occupational therapist so that you can move about without worsening your arthritis.
Surgery is usually recommended when other treatments prove ineffective the damage to your joints is severe enough to cause difficulties in everyday life. It can either be pain-relieving or reconstructive like replacing a badly damaged joint with an artificial joint, removing the inflamed lining of the joint cavity, releasing trapped nerves or fusing a joint to make it more stable. The most common form of surgery for arthritis is joint replacement.
Eating certain kinds of food could help you relieve the pain and discomfort associated with the disease while certain others could worsen the symptoms. Naini Setalvad, renowned dietician tells us more.
Spice it up
If you want to beat arthritis you need to include more vegetables such as garlic and onions into your diet. Ideally you should combine them with ginger. I would even suggest simply chewing on ginger all day long – that truly helps! In addition, stock up on the chilli family, ranging from the fresh green chilies to the capsicum. You could also use more spices such as cloves and cinnamon.
Try some variety in your rotis
When it comes to your rotis, try those made of jowar, nachani, raagi and bajri. They are great for your arthritis-ridden joints because they contain nutrients that help ease the problem,
All fats are not bad
You also need healthy fats to soothe the joints – the kind present in nuts and seeds like walnuts, cashew nuts, pistachios etc. Seeds include sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds. Cook your food in extra virgin olive oil and don’t forget to dab some ghee on your rotis. If you do not like ghee you could eat a good amount of the coconut flesh. These fats not only help lubricate the joints, they also help absorb certain vitamins which provide nutrition to the
Beware of foods that worsen the pain
As far as possible, avoid tomatoes, lemon, amla, imli, dairy products and wheat. These foods could possibly worsen the pain in the joints. However, the worst part about this is the fact that cutting some of these foods could deprive you of Vitamin C. As a result you must ensure that you get enough guava and kokum in your daily diet. This will not only keep your vitamin C levels up, it also helps fight inflammation.
Shun the whites
Other foods that you should avoid are white flour, white sugar and table salt. Switch from white sugar to natural sweeteners like jaggery and dates. You could also replace your white salt with rock salt and sea salt. These salts contain additional minerals that are not available in white table salt, and the minerals are known to heal.
Keep a tab on your vitamins
In addition to all the healthy changes, you should also keep a regular tab on your vitamin B 12 and vitamin D 3 levels; the latter being slightly more important in the case of arthritis. If they are low, consult a physician and take the supplements as required, since low vitamin B 12 and vitamin D 3 levels are a sure shot sign of arthritis.