Arthritis – A Life Long Disease?

by Richard H Ealom

INTRODUCTION: Arthritis is defined as the presence of swelling, the presence of effusion (The escape of fluid into another part), or the presence of 2 or more of the following symptoms: limited range of movement (ROM), tenderness, pain on motion, or joint warmth. It is a chronic disease that will be with you for a long time and potentially for the rest of your life and is diagnosed through a careful evaluation of symptoms and a physical examination.

Arthritis is one of the most rapidly growing chronic conditions in North America and is a major reason for lost work time and serious disability for many people. It is not just an old person’s disease. The 2 most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium (cell lining inside the joint). It appears to have been described in paintings more than a century before the first detailed medical description of the condition in 1800 by Landre-Beauvais. The condition can be difficult to diagnose early because it can begin gradually with subtle symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in middle age and is most common in older people.

TREATMENT: Treatment options include medications, reduction of joint stress, physical and occupational therapy, and surgical intervention. Treatment decisions require careful consideration of the risks and benefits.

Treating rheumatoid arthritis may involve: Lifestyle modifications, Drugs, Surgery, Regular physician visits as well as Alternative therapies. The aim of treatment in this chronic disease must be two-fold: to ease the suffering of the patient here and now, and to prevent the future destruction of the joints and resulting handicap if the disease is left untreated.

RISK: The risk of first getting the disease (the disease incidence) seems to be greatest for women between 40 and 50 years of age, and for men somewhat later. It is necessary to recognize that persons with rheumatoid arthritis have an elevated risk of developing lymphoma as a consequence of their autoimmune condition, independently from any potential medication effects.

It is important to note that rheumatoid arthritis itself is a risk factor for non-Hodgkins lymphomas. A modest increase in the risk of serious infection was observed in rheumatoid arthritis patients in clinical trials treated with anakinra in combination with DMARDS and other TNF inhibitors, compared to a placebo with DMARDs (2 % vs 1%).

CONCLUSION: Arthritis is a term that groups together over one hundred rheumatic diseases and other related conditions that cause stiffness, swelling and pain in the joints of the body. It is exploding in an aging American population and is one of the most rapidly growing chronic conditions in North America. Arthritis is a chronic disease that will be with you for a long time and potentially for the rest of your life.

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