What is Arthritis?

Nearly 40 million Americans - one out of every seven - have arthritis. Arthritis literally means "joint inflammation" and refers to more than 100 related medical conditions. These diseases usually affect the area in or around joints, such as muscles and tendons. They usually cause stiffness, pain and fatigue. Some of these diseases can also affect other parts of the body, including the skin and internal organs.

If you do not move a joint regularly, the muscles around it weaken and tighten. The joint can stiffen or even freeze. When you do try to move, the joint and muscles hurt because they have been still for to long. This can make it hard to do the movements you rely on every day for work or taking care of your family. But you can take steps to reduce the pain, keep active and move your joints.

Symptoms of Arthritis
The severity of arthritis varies from person to person and even from day to day. For some people only a few joints are stiff and swollen, but others have their entire body affected. Many types of arthritis show signs of joint inflammation: swelling, stiffness, tenderness, redness or warmth. These joint symptoms may be accompanied by weight loss, fever or weakness.

Symptoms that last for more than two weeks may be caused by inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis. Joint inflammation may also be caused by infection, which can lead to septic arthritis. Degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, but joint inflammation is not a significant feature of this condition.

Muscles hurt after doing exercise or activities that you aren't used to. And when a joint is damaged, simple activities stress the joint. Pain may be caused by swelling, joint damage, muscle tightness or spasm. When your joints are inflamed or damaged, you need to take certain precautions. Your doctor or therapist can teach you exercises and the correct use of heat and cold to decrease pain. You can also learn how to use your body with the least stress to your joints for less pain, easier movement and even more energy.

Types of Arthritis?

Identifying the type of arthritis you have is important in order to have your physician treat it properly. Different types of arthritis can affect one or more parts of a joint, resulting in a change of shape and alignment in the joints. Following are the most common types of arthritis:

Back Pain in the lower back area is often caused by certain types of arthritis. Treatments include pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise, heat or cold, joint protection, pacing your activities and self-care skills.

Bursitis and Tendinitis result from irritation caused by injuring or overusing a joint. Bursitis affects a small sac that helps muscles move easily, while tendinitis affects the tendons that attach muscle to bone.

Fibromyalgia affects muscles and their attachments to bone. It is characterized by widespread pain and tender points, which are certain places on the body that are more sensitive to pain. People with fibromyalgia frequently experience fatigue, disturbed sleep, stiffness and psychological distress.

Gout results when the body produces too much or is unable to rid itself of uric acid. The uric acid forms needlelike crystals in the joint that cause severe pain and swelling. Gout usually affects men more often than women and manifests itself in the big toes, ankles and knees.

Lupus is a rheumatic disease that affects the skin and body tissues, and sometimes organs such as the kidneys, lungs or heart. Lupus affects women about eight to 10 times more often than men. Symptoms often first appear in women between ages 18 and 45. A few common symptoms include a butterfly-patterned rash over the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose; scaly, disc-shaped sores on the face, neck and chest; abnormal sun sensitivity; and arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects most people as they age. It is sometimes called degenerative arthritis because it involves the breakdown of cartilage and bones, causing pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis usually affects the fingers and weight-bearing joints, including the knees, feet, hips and back.

Osteoporosis causes bone to lose mass and become brittle, often leading to painful fractures, rounded shoulders and loss of height. The disease affects more than 25 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. It is the major underlying cause of bone fractures in postmenopausal women and the elderly.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an abnormality in the body's defense or immune system that causes inflammation of the joints. Inflammation begins in the joint lining and then may damage both cartilage and bone. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the same joints on both sides of the body. The hands, wrists, feet, knees, ankles, shoulders, neck, jaw and elbows can be affected.

Arthritis Products

Bath Safety Products - help to maintain stability and compensate for loss of strength when toileting and bathing. These include:
Bedpans and Urinals - are available for patients who are unable to get up from bed to use a bedside commode or the bathroom.

Elevated Toilet Seats - enable patients who have difficult in standing to remain independent in the bathroom.

Bedside Commodes - are stand-alone toilet seats with a removable pail for people who are able to walk to the bathroom but often cannot make it that far without having an incontinence accident.

Bath Chair and Handheld Shower - often become necessary to wash up after incontinence accidents.

Grab Bars - provide stability when standing after sitting on the toilet or when entering and exiting the bath or shower.

Aids to Daily Living (ADL's) - help people remain independent by facilitating their daily tasks in eating, dressing, bathing and toileting. These include: Reachers, Door Openers, Pill Dispensers, Silverware and Plates

Arthritis Resources

The Arthritis Foundation

The American College of Rheumatology
404 633-3777

Caregiving Resources

National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA)

National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC)

Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA)

Hub4Health started in 2005 offering practical health information about common and frequently researched medical conditions. In addition to providing up to date information about the symptoms and treatments for today's prevalent medical conditions, Hub4Health research contains sensible suggestions for related products and services.

Author's Bio: 

Jack Evans is a health care marketing specialist and educator who is dedicated to helping the home healthcare market bring its message, products and services to consumers and caregivers everywhere. As a past soft goods manufacturer, anthropologist, ecologist, teacher and advertising agency veteran, Jack offers thorough knowledge of our marketplace and the enthusiasm to share his knowledge with others. The creator and editor of the "Winning Strategies" retailing home healthcare newsletter in HomeCare magazine, Jack is the HHC retailing consultant for Drug Store News, HME News, Repertoire and Advance for Post-Acute Care.