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The Most Important Things to Know About Arthritis

With 22.2% of American adults troubled with bone inflammation, i.e., arthritis, it’s very important that you are aware of this disease. Learn about the types, signs and symptoms, prevention, and treatment of arthritis here.

What Is Arthritis?

The term ‘arthritis’ means painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. The occurrence of this depends on a variety of health related issues that cause the rheumatic conditions to develop. The different health related issues can be autoimmune conditions, cell degeneration, connective tissue disease, infections, and some metabolic issues that eventually lead to inflammation.

The most common type of arthritis is the osteoarthritis which affects 31 million Americans. Whereas the most chronic, as well as the fatal one, is the rheumatoid arthritis that causes 22% of all deaths related to arthritis.

A Report on Arthritis

Arthritis is growing to become the most commonly found disease, especially in adults. That’s clear in the data combined by CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) samples 2013-15. The report states:

  • Around 54.4 million (22.7% of the adult population) had doctor-diagnosed arthritis during 2013-2015. That’s two-thirds of all US adults between the ages of 18-64 years.

  • About 43.5% (23.7 million) out of the 54.4 million patients have limitations in their usual activities due to their arthritis which makes it the nation’s No. 1 cause of disability in people.

  • The number of adult patients of arthritis is projected to be around 60 million in 2020, and a higher 78 million (25.9% of the total adult population of US) in 2040.

Not only in adults, arthritis is slowly growing to become a common disease among children too. About 300,000 children in US have already been diagnosed with childhood arthritis. That’s 1 in every 250 children!

Arthritis is much more common among people who have other chronic health conditions such as heart disease (49%), diabetes (47%), high blood pressure (44%), and obesity (31%).

What Are the Causes of Arthritis?

The main reason why arthritis develops is the ‘inflammation’. The damaging inflammation that doesn’t occur as a normal reaction to the injury eventually starts affecting the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling. This condition is called arthritis. However, inflammation itself can occur due to many reasons some of which are listed below:

  • Degenerative or Mechanical:

    It involves the damage and remodeling of the cartilage- a smooth, slippery tissue that helps the joints glide and move smoothly. During remodeling, undesirable bone growth may occur causing the joint to become misshapen.

  • Soft Tissue Musculoskeletal Pain:

    A soft tissue injury occurs when a muscle, nerve, fascia, tendon, or ligament is damaged. The damage then starts the process of inflammation that occurs by releasing chemicals in the area causing swelling, heat, and pain.

  • Back Pain:

    Back pains can arise from the muscles, discs, nerves, ligaments, bones, or joints, or may even be caused by problems with organs inside the body, and can be a result of referred pain.

  • Connective Tissue Disease:

    Inflammation may also occur in some connective tissue diseases like SLE, systemic sclerosis, and dermatomyositis. Examples of connective tissues are the tendons, ligaments, and cartilage that support, bind together, or separate other body tissues and organs.

  • Infections:

    A bacteria, virus, or fungus can also enter the joint that can cause inflammation. These can enter through food poisoning or contamination, sexually transmitted diseases, or through blood-to-blood infections like hepatitis C.

  • Metabolic Issues:

    Inflammation caused by the uric acids that build up and accumulate (because they didn’t pass out of the body for some reason) in some people and form needle-like crystals in the joint.

Arthritis Types and Symptoms

There are around 200 rheumatic diseases and conditions that are described under the term ‘arthritis’ and that affect joints, the tissues surrounding them, and other connective tissues. Some of the most common types of arthritis with their symptoms are:

  1. Osteoarthritis:Found in an estimated 31 million Americans, this is one of the most common types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that results from breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. It weakens your bone that can easily be broken after even a minor fall.

  2. Symptoms

    • Pain and stiffness in the joints
    • More worse pain after exercise or pressure on the joint
    • Rubbing, grating, or crackling sound when moving a joint
    • Morning stiffness or stiffness after resting a while
  3. Rheumatoid Arthritis: An estimated 1.5 million adults in the US are with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s an autoimmune disease that means the immune system attacks the parts of the body, especially the joints. It leads to inflammation that can cause severe joint damage. Left untreated, 20-30% of those detected with it will become permanently work-disabled within 2-3 years of diagnosis.

  4. Symptoms

    • Morning stiffness, lasting more than 1 hour
    • Stiffness in the joints of the wrists, fingers, knees, feet and ankles. An important thing to notice here is that the joint pain will be felt on the same joints of both sides of the body. That’s because it’s a systemic disease that affects both parts of the body equally.
    • Chest pain while inhaling
    • Dry eyes and mouth
    • Eye burning, itching and discharge
    • Sleep difficulties
  5. Psoriatic Arthritis: The prevalence of psoriatic arthritis in patients of psoriasis is between 7-42% in the US. It occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues. This abnormal response causes inflammation in the joints. It normally affects the tips of the elbows and knees, the scalp, the navel, and skin around the genital areas or anus. It causes patchy, raised, red, and white areas of inflamed skin.

  6. Symptoms

    • Swelling of the fingers and toes
    • Pitted or discolored fingernails
    • Only one or a few joints are affected, if mild
    • Multiple joints affected, if severe
    • Can affect the spine too
  7. Fibromyalgia: It affects an estimated 5 million US adults. The causes of fibromyalgia are unexplained, and it is diagnosed in individuals generally during the middle age. Its prevalence increases with age.

  8. Symptoms

    • Widespread pain
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Fatigue
    • Morning stiffness
    • Psychological distress
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Headaches, including migraine
    • Painful menstrual periods and other painful syndrome
  9. Lupus: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), or simply lupus, is an autoimmune disease where the immune system produces antibodies to cells within the body leading to widespread inflammation and tissue damage. According to some estimates, 161,000 US adults are definitely with SLE, while 322,000 are with probable SLE.

  10. Symptoms

    • Red rash or color change on the face
    • Painful or swollen joints
    • Unexplained fever
    • Chest pain while deep breathing
    • Swollen glands
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Unusual hair loss
    • Sun sensitivity
    • Low blood count

    6. Gout: It’s a rheumatic disease that occurs due to the formation of the uric acid crystals in tissues and fluids within the body. It occurs because of an over production or under excretion of uric acid in the body. It can cause severe red, hot and swollen joints with agonizing pain. Recurrent attacks can lead to a degenerative form of chronic arthritis called gouty arthritis.


    • Warmth, pain, swelling in the joints
    • Sudden pain, often during the night
    • Very red skin around the affected joint
    • Limited movement in the affected joints

Treatment for Arthritis

Arthritis can be treated in various ways depending upon the type of disease, the person’s age, types of medication the patient is taking, overall health, medical history, and the severity of symptoms.

The treatment includes medication, exercise, and surgery, if required, to correct joint damage. The main objectives of the treatment are:

  • Treat the underlying disease and decrease inflammation
  • Ease or relieve pain through medication
  • Maintain joint movement and muscle strength, and minimize the joint damage through physical therapies and exercises
  • Decrease the stress on joints by using braces, splints, or canes as needed.

Lifestyle Changes That Can Prevent Arthritis from Advancing

If you find these arthritis symptoms in you, or if you have recently been diagnosed with arthritis, you can prevent it from advancing. It will require being physically active and consuming the right diet. Remaining organized, healthy, and getting regular check-ups is the key. Things you can do to prevent arthritis from advancing are:

  • Organize yourself:

  • Keep track of everything; the symptoms, medication, possible side effects, and diet. Consult your doctor in case you encounter any side effects.

  • Stay active through physical therapies:

  • To reduce the limitations on mobility, try some therapist guided physical exercises. These are specific exercises tailored to the condition and individual needs, sometimes combined with pain relieving treatments such as ice or hot packs and massages. Occupational therapies are also helpful for managing everyday tasks.

  • Take rest when needed:

  • When your arthritis is active, you shouldn’t push yourself more than required. It’s equally important to rest as it is to do physical activity.

  • Have a healthy and balanced diet:

  • Eat plant foods that are high in antioxidants and that have anti-inflammatory properties. Avoid processed food and pro-inflammatory animal-derived food.

  • Sleep more:

  • Get more sleep as it helps in keeping a check on the aggravating arthritis pain and fatigue. Avoid caffeine, and strenuous exercise in the evening and lower phone usage as it may restrict you from sleeping.

Visit your doctor if you find any of the arthritis symptoms in you. It’s always better to prevent a disease from happening or advancing than to spend time, effort, money, and most of all, life in treating it.

At Newport Family Medicine, you’ll find the most trusted family caregivers providing you with all your family care needs. Call us today at (949) 299-0326 to schedule an appointment!

Newport Family Medicine, located in Newport Beach, CA, offers full-service family practice from pregnancy through childhood and adulthood to maturity. We provide comprehensive health care for people of all age groups.

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