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Arthritis - A Common Disease

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/1/2006 | Health
Arthritis literally means joint inflammation. Most of the cases of arthritis involve the body joints but joints are not the only body parts to be affected by arthritis. In its various forms arthritis can also affect other parts of the body. It is one of the most commonly occurring diseases affecting people of all ages. However most of the victims are able to go about their business as usual.

At a body joint, ends of two bones come together. The ends of the bones are covered with cartilage which makes the surfaces of bone ends smooth for sliding against each other. The smoothness of surfaces makes it possible to carry out the joint movement easily and painlessly with minimum friction thousands of times in a day. The two bones of a joint are held together firmly in place by ligaments which also form a capsule around the joint. The surface of ligaments is lined with synovial membrane which secretes synovial fluid for lubricating the joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis, one of the more common types, occurs when synovial membrane gets inflamed and joint swells up. If it is allowed to increase it can affect the cartilage and cause severe pain. In its more advances stage it can affect other parts of the body such as lungs, heart and eyes. This disease is three times more common in women than in men.

Osteoarthritis, another common variety, results when cartilage wears out. When this happens the ends of the bones in contact with each other lose their protective cover as well as the smooth gliding surface. The bone ends then directly rub against each other. The joint becomes stiff and starts paining. This condition involves joints which are exposed to frequent wear and tear such as fingers, big toes, knees, hips, lower spine.

Another type of arthritis, gout, occurs due to defect in body chemistry. There is excess of uric acid in the blood and crystals deposit on joints and other places. It affects men more than women.

Ankylosing spondylitis, another form of arthritis, affects the spine. The vertebrae get fused together and the spine tends to stiffen up.

There are several treatments for arthritis such as:


Application of heat - hot compresses, hot tub bath, infrared treatment

Physiotherapy and exercise

Avoidance of over-exertion of affected joints

Surgery in extreme cases

These treatments may not work equally well for all patients. The patient will have to find out which treatment suits him best. But before starting any treatment the patient must consult his doctor.

Following measures can be beneficial to most of the patients:

Reduction in body weight - higher body weight puts more stress on body structure including the joints. It is estimated that reduction of 11 pounds in body weight can cut chances of osteoarthritis by as much as 50 %.

Modest activities to avoid joint laxity.

Improve body posture.

It is well known that lack of activity of body joints and body muscles make them weak and prone to diseases. The best guard against arthritis is to do regular exercise of all major body joints and muscles. Our modern lifestyle generally does not make it necessary for us to use all our limbs regularly. We are used to desk type jobs and sedentary living. Unless we take out time to do some exercise, maintain correct body weight, and maintain correct body posture we will remain susceptible.

Our body gives us sufficient indication when there is any trouble. Arthritis can be detected early by paying attention to any consistent joint pains. An early treatment of the disease can save you from lot of trouble.