Types of arthritis
Arthritis, broadly defined as a condition causing inflammation of the joints and stiffness, is of over a hundred types. Arthritis commonly manifests after the age of sixty five years, though it can present in children, teenagers or young adults. Arthritis is more common in women and among obese individuals. Factors in the development of arthritis include injury, abnormal metabolism, genetic makeup, infections, and immune system dysfunction.
Symptoms of arthritis include pain, restricted range of movement, along with redness or swelling in some cases. Treatment aims to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain quality of life. It involves medications, physical therapies, and patient education and support.
The common types of arthritis include:
Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteo-arthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It mostly affects the knee joint, and is due to wear and tear of the cartilage, causing painful movements and stiffness.
- Rheumatoid arthritis
One of the most debilitating forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is a result of an auto-immune disorder and runs a chronic course. Commonly affecting women around the age of forty, rheumatoid arthritis requires life-long treatment and shows a waxing and waning pattern.
Gout is a metabolic disorder causing accumulation of a metabolic product, uric acid as crystals within the joint fluid. Although gout usually affects the big toe, it is also seen in the knee joint.
Pseudogout most often affects the knee joint. Pseudo-gout mimics gout in its presentation and is due to deposits of calcium crystals within the joint cavity.
- Septic arthritis
Infection of a joint can result from microbes entering the joint cavity. This can cause pain, swelling and restricted movement. There is associated fever and usually has a rapid progression causing extensive damage to the cartilage.
- Psoriatic arthritis
This is a form of arthritis seen in people with the skin condition. Psoriasis presents with multiple silvery plaques over the body, especially over the extensor aspects.
Causes for arthritis
There’s no single cause for all the types of arthritis, there are different causes depending on the type. Possible causes include:
- Abnormal metabolism, leading to gout or pseudogout
- Injury that can cause degenerative arthritis or osteo-arthritis. Normal wear and tear also contributes to the development of osteoarthritis.
- Familial factors or genetics, as in the case of osteoarthritis
- Infections, such as arthritis as a result of Lyme disease. An infection may exacerbate the breakdown of cartilage tissue within a joint and lead to arthritis
- A defective immune system, such as in rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the body tissues such as the synovium in this case. The synovium is a tissue within the joint cavity that produces joint fluid and lubricates the joint.
Most arthritis are caused by a combination of factors, and some appear to be unpredictable. Additional factors include smoking and physically demanding lifestyles or occupations.
Risk factors for arthritis
These include both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors:
- Modifiable risk factors:
- Obesity: Being overweight can lead to onset and progression of osteo-arthritis
- Joint injuries: Injuries can lead to development of osteoarthritis
- Infections: Some microbes can infect joints and trigger arthritis.
- Occupational risk factors: Jobs that require you to do repeated squats and knee bending can lead to arthritis.
- Non-modifiable risk factors:
- Age: Risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.
- Sex: Most types of arthritis are more common among women, about 60% of people with arthritis are females. Gout, however, is more common among males.
- Genetic factors: Genetic risk factors prevail for rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and few other types of arthritis.
Can some foods cause inflammation of joints?
Some foods are known to trigger inflammation of joints:
- Fried and processed food: fried meat and prepared frozen food can be a trigger for arthritis. Reducing such foods in your diet can reduce inflammation and actually boost the body’s defense mechanisms.
- AGEs: Advanced Glycosylation End products or AGEs are toxins which appear when food is heated, pasteurized, grilled or fried. These trigger inflammation and cause protein damage. Reducing food cooked at high temperatures can reduce blood AGE levels.
- Sugars and refined carbohydrates: High amounts of sugars can increase levels of AGEs.
- Dairy products: The protein in milk and dairy products can irritate tissue around joints.
- Alcohol and tobacco: Drinking alcohol puts you at risk of developing gout. Tobacco increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Salt and preservatives: Excess amounts of salt can lead to joint inflammation.
- Foods that aggravate symptoms of gout: Purine-rich foods such as red wine, meats and sea-food can lead to the building of the break-down product of purine and uric acid. This accumulates in the joints leading to gout.