Joint arthritis is classified amongst hundred rheumatic diseases and conditions. The commonest of these conditions is osteoarthritis (or degenerative arthritis). This particular form is caused by the breakdown of cartilage tissue within the joints. The other forms frequently encountered include rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory arthritis), lupus, gout and fibromyalgia. The lifetime risk of getting this disease is estimated to be about 45%. The risk is much higher in obese individuals and in people with a history of injury to a joint.
Symptoms that accompany this condition include swelling within and around the joints, pain, stiffness and aching. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are usually associated with widespread symptoms as a result of multiple organ involvement. These may include symptoms associated with renal failure or liver failure.
Joint arthritis is common in individuals aged above sixty five. About a third of all the cases are seen in this age group. There are also significant sex differences with women being more affected (24%) than their male counterparts (18%). All races and ethnic groups are affected but more cases are encountered in the developed world. This is due to a population constituted of more people in the geriatric age group, compared to the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
There are a number of problems associated with this condition. It is, first and foremost, a common cause of disability. Some studies have shown that about 1 in 3 people with the condition have some limitation attributable to the condition hence their productivity is reduced. People suffering from this condition are usually less physically active and this in turn predisposes them to other chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. The cost of the condition is therefore very high, not just in the form of lost earnings but also in the amount of money spent in its pain management.
There are a number of things that can be done to address this problem. All the available solutions require the close cooperation between the patient and the health provider. The best option available is probably that in which the patient learns techniques on how to manage the condition themselves. These self-management education programs have been found to reduce pain and hospital visits by as much as 40%.
Another way in which patients can play a role towards their recovery is by being physically active. This may be in the form of swimming, walking, jogging and cycling. Not only does this reduce pain, but it is also beneficial to their mental health and in the long run, to their quality of life. Related to this is the issue of weight control.
There is a positive correlation between weight loss and symptom alleviation. For individuals who do not have the condition as yet, injury prevention and weight control have been shown to reduce the risk. By eating right and exercising regularly, patients will be able to control their weight.
The important thing is to take precaution before one acquires the condition or when it is still in its early stages. Persons who experience symptoms that are suggestive of joint arthritis are advised to consult with a physician at the earliest time possible. This is more important to people suffering from inflammatory types of diseases. This ensures that a timely diagnosis is made and prompt intervention measures are taken.