It is a given fact that as we get older our bodies will weaken. Because of this, you may develop several degenerative diseases. One of today’s most common condition upon reaching the “senior age” is arthritis. However, be reminded that your joints may get damaged or inflamed whether you’re young or old. Even so, according to one survey, this condition is more prevalent in people under the “40 to 60 years old” age bracket. For that reason, the main concept of this article is to give you sufficient information about arthritis as a degenerative disease.
Common types of arthritis
1. Rheumatoid arthritis
Medically described as an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common medical conditions you may experience. Since it is an autoimmune disease, the primary cause of your joint swelling and pain is your body itself. How so?
Remember, if your body detects any unknown substances, its immediate response is to release immune cells. For this condition, the immune cells will move from your blood towards your joint's lining. From there, these cells will release a substance that can irritate and inflame this specific part of your joint. Not only that, this substance can also cause cartilage deterioration. Remember, cartilages act as your bone’s cushion. If it starts to deteriorate, your bones will end-up rubbing each, which will further aggravate the problem.
Often called as "degenerative arthritis," osteoarthritis is actually the most common type of joint disease experienced by older people. In this case, your joint's protective layer is slowly destroyed due to the natural wear and tear process. Remember, your body is not invincible. With continuous use, our body will inevitably acquire mild or severe damages. Compared to a young person’s body, your healing process slows down as you age. Hence, there are certain parts of your body that are not as healthy, strong, and efficient as before. Cartilages are one of these parts. As mentioned above, as cartilages become thinner, your bones will be able to rub each other. This bone friction will eventually result to severe pain and inflammation. In addition to that, another important note to remember is that osteoarthritis can affect any joints of your body. However, it is usually developed in one’s spine, hands, hips, and knee.
3. GoutCredit: National Cancer Institute, USA
Another interesting topic under arthritis as a degenerative disease is gout or “gouty arthritis”. Although this condition can occur in people who are 20 years old or above, it is more commonly observed in people aging from 40 to 50 years old. But, what exactly is this type of medical condition?
If you’re familiar with uric acid, this chemical is the primary cause of your joint problem. Normally, uric acid will not cause any harm since it can easily be eliminated through your urine. The problem arises when high amounts of this chemical exists in your blood. When this happens, crystals of uric acid is typically formed and accumulated in your joints. For most people suffering from gout arthritis, it usually occurs in their big toe. But, of course, it can also happen in other areas such as the joints of your knees, fingers, ankles, wrists, and many more.
As of today, there is no treatment available that can cure arthritis. But, there are several medical procedures that can improve your joint’s capability to function efficiently. In addition to that, most of today's treatments aim to relieve inflammatory signs and symptoms. Hence, most of these treatments will help you cope with your discomforts.
Typically, people suffering from arthritis are strongly advised to take drugs that can deliver both analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Pharmaceutical products under the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) group are the most common medications that deliver both these effects. Colchicine is another drug that is usually prescribed for patients suffering from gout. This drug can also be taken as an alternative for those who cannot take NSAIDs.Credit: Petr Kratochvil
Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) are usually prescribed to patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Basically, this specific type of drugs such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex®) retards joint damage by “modifying” one’s immune system. Remember, as mentioned earlier, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Hence, the best way to control this medical condition is to focus on treating the underlying cause, which is your immune system. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, does not only deliver anti-inflammatory effects. It also acts like DMARDs. However, as of today, the use of this specific type of drugs is still an issue. Primarily because of its adverse drug reactions.
If your main concern is high levels of uric acid in your blood, there are several medications that can regulate this abnormality. Allopurinol (Aloprim®) and febuxostat (Uloric®) are usually given to lower your body’s production of uric acid. Another drug is probenecid (Probalan®). Its primary effect is to enhance the kidney’s capability to eliminate harmful compounds especially uric acid. Keep in mind that these drugs will only lessen your risks of developing gout and not as a treatment per se. So, if you’re experiencing gout attacks, your drug of choice should either be colchicine (Colrys®) or any drugs under the NSAIDs group, such as ibuprofen (Advil®).
2. Physical therapy and surgical procedures
Physical therapy is another treatment option you can take if you’re experiencing joint stiffness. Keep in mind that, if you’re suffering from arthritis, it is strongly advised to move your joints . Being immobile will only make matters worse. Physical therapy aims to help you achieve this. Although it will not bring back your joint’s 100% health, it will help you do your everyday tasks without severe discomforts.
Joint replacement surgery is another option you can take for arthritis as a degenerative disease especially during severe cases. You might be wondering if surgical procedure is appropriate for your age?According to one study indicated in the Archives of Internal Medicine, osteoarthritis patients aging from 75 years old and above will greatly benefit from this procedure. However, always keep in mind that your healing process may take longer than the usual time frame. Furthermore, complications are also noted in some patients.
Finally, occupational therapy is also imperative to get you back on track. But, as a conclusion, most patients who participated in this study felt they have made the right choice. So, if you are having second thoughts about surgery, don’t disregard this option just yet.
3. Alternative medicineCredit: kphunter - wikimedia commons (public domain image)
Acupuncture for arthritis is one of today’s current hype. We all know that this alternative medicine practice uses specialized needles. But, what exactly does this ancient medical practice do when it comes to your joint problems? Basically, the main concept here is that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins. Remember, endorphins and other neurotransmitters can block pain sensations.
It was actually noted in several studies that this treatment can greatly improve your condition after a few months of continuous treatments. Nonetheless, keep in mind that its main function is to relieve your discomforts and not to treat the disease per se. Still, a lot of studies and experts recommend this option as effective and safe.
Today, some of the most popular supplements for arthritis are fish oil , Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). However, some of these products need further researches to back-up its claims. Hence, you need to consult your doctor before trying any of these supplements.
4. Natural Remedies
There are many natural remedies for arthritis that will help ease your discomforts. Hot and cold compress, for example, is one of the most common remedies you can do. You can also opt for herbal remedies, such as carrot juice, ginger tea, oregano, basil, licorice,and a lot more. Most of these remedies have substantial scientific rationales. Hence, most of them are effective especially in subsiding inflammatory signs and symptoms.
Individuals suffering from joint pain and stiffness will always have some second thoughts when doing physical activities. However, in reality, there are many reasons exercise can help delay or prevent arthritis in old age.
First, is weight control. Yes, your weight can affect your joint’s current condition. Basically, being overweight will put a lot of stress or pressure on your knees and hips.
Aside from weight management, exercise can also promote a stronger skeletal system. Remember, one’s bone tissues will continue to grow until one reaches the age of 30. Afterwards, bone loss may occur. With regular exercise, you can cope with this dilemma. Not only that, regular exercise will make sure that the muscles around your joints are flexible and strong.
The food you consume is also important especially when you’re dealing with gout. As mentioned above, the primary cause of gout is too much uric acid in your body. Thus, there are several food products that you should avoid. For example, saturated fats and alcohol can lower your kidney’s capability to eliminate uric acid. Fructose-sweetened products on the other hand can stimulate uric acid production. Lastly, high in purine foods, such as liver, anchovies and sardines, should also be consumed occasionally. Mainly because uric acid is formed when purine is metabolized.
This article entitled “Food to Avoid When Dealing with Arthritis” may give you more information about how certain foods can affect your joint’s current condition.
More about Rheumatoid Arthritis
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