World Arthritis Day: Symptoms and Treatments

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today is World Arthritis Day . Arthris Day is celebrated every year on 12th october.Arthritis can have significant physical and psychological repercussions that impact quality of life. Arthritis affects more women than men worldwide.

This year’s World Arthritis Day theme is ‘Let’s Work Together’ which considers the challenges of work, be it paid employment, voluntary work or work at home supporting a family, and embraces people with rheumatic diseases, healthcare professionals and employers.World Arthritis Day was first celebrated in 1996 by ARI (Arthritis Rheumatism International)

Approximately 30% of diseases of the joints have the potential of becoming serious life threatening systemic problems. This is especially so if the patient is a young or middle-aged woman.

Women of all ages bear a disproportionate burden of arthritis and its impacts compared to men and it is the most common and disabling chronic condition in Indian women. Women tend to have a lower age at onset than men. They also have greater levels of pain and disease-associated depression. Differences such as pain levels and functional status may stem from the inherent differences between the male and female musculoskeletal system. Given that woman is the "weaker vessel" concerning musculoskeletal size and strength and her baseline values are lower than men's, the same burden of a musculoskeletal disease may appear to be more harmful to a woman than to a man.

Other things which may increase the risk of getting arthritis or of worsening your existing arthritis include being overweight, chronic stress across joints, multiple microfractures in the related bone, major joint trauma, or other metabolic or inflammatory injuries. Because of the gender differences in arthritis incidence, hormones have long been suspected to have a role in disease origin and progression.

  • Arthritis affects approx 37 million Americans (NIAMS)
  • Prevalance Rate: approx 1 in 7 or 13.60% or 37 million people in USA
  • Prevalance of Arthritis: An estimated 40 million people in the United States have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions. By the year 2020, this number is expected to reach 59 million.
  • Rheumatic diseases are the leading cause of disability among adults age 65 and older ( data source )

Despite its cyclical nature, arthritis is a progressive condition. If the symptoms are not stopped or slowed down with early treatment, it can cause extensive joint damage and long term disability. Many women with arthritis have difficulty carrying out normal activities associated with daily living, including simple things like standing, dressing themselves, going to the bathroom and carrying out household chores, climbing stairs, sitting on floor.

Arthritis self-management programs also play an important role in helping women learn how to cope with the pain, as well as the other effects of the disease.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a group of conditions involving damage to the joints of the body. There are different forms of arthritis and each has a different cause.

Types of Arthritis

The most common and primary form of arthritis is OSTEOARTHRITIS, also referred to as degenerative joint disease. Some of the other primary forms of arthritis are:

• Secondary Osteoarthritis
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Gout and pseudogout
• Ankylosing spondylitis
• Psoriatic Arthritic

1.) Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement of joints. The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.

2.) Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is, mainly characterized by inflammation of the lining, or synovium, of the joints. It can lead to long-term joint damage, resulting in chronic pain, loss of function and disability.

3.) Gout and pseudogout

Gout and pseudogout are the 2 most common crystal-induced arthropathies. They are debilitating illnesses in which pain and joint inflammation are caused by the formation of crystals within the joint space.

4.) Ankylosing spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of chronic inflammation of the spine and other joints. Chronic inflammation in these areas causes pain and stiffness in and around the spine & joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune diseases in which the body attacks itself. Gouty arthritis is caused by deposition of uric acid crystals in the joint, causing inflammation.


The primary and main symptom of arthritis is joint pain, which is associated with muscle spasms around the joint. The pain in the joint may be due to two reasons:

• Age-related degeneration of the joints, as seen in osteoarthritis
• Systemic inflammation of the joints, as seen in rheumatoid arthritis

Excessive movement of the joints causes aggravation of the pain. Patients experience severe pain classically in the early hours of the day, when they wake up and get out of bed, though it is not uncommon for patients to experience severe pain at night. Patients also feel pain when they get up after sitting at one place for a while.

Other symptoms of arthritis include restriction of movement, crepitus in the affected joint, deformities and also possible instability at the joint.

Patients with arthritis of the lower limb joints experience difficulty in walking, climbing stairs, sitting on Indian toilets, sitting cross-legged on floor, or getting up after sitting down for some time or swatting down to perform household activties. Patients with arthritis of the upper limb joints experience difficulty in using the affected hand for basic tasks like eating, combing their hair, and wearing/changing clothes.

For normal and routine activities, it is critical that our joints are mobile, stable, and pain-free. Arthritis is characterized by at least one of the three conditions not being met, making it difficult for the patient to perform their daily activities. The patient’s activities get even more limited if the arthritis is at one of the major joints of the lower limb – the hip or the knee. Patients suffering from advanced stages of arthritis experience stiff and extremely painful joints. An option advised for such patients today is joint replacement surgery, which can provide patients with absolutely PAINLESS, STABLE, and MOBILE joints.

Treatment for Arthritis
Arthritis treatment primarily is of two types:

• Non-surgical treatment
• Surgical treatment or joint replacement surgery

Non-surgical Treatment for Arthritis

The non-surgical treatment option for arthritis can be explored depending on the condition of the patient. There are a number of non-surgical options available for treating arthritis. These include:

• Lifestyle change
• Exercise & Weight Reduction
• Physiotherapy
• Use of support devices
• Medication

The physician may decide on which of these treatment options to use depending on the type of arthritis, and after discussions with the patient.

Lifestyle change

This includes weight reduction and moving away from activities that increase the knee pain like climbing stairs. The objective is to switch to a lifestyle that involves lesser stress to the knee and, therefore, lesser pain in that region.


Patients can engage in exercising to treat their arthritis non-surgically. The exercises depend on the kind of arthritis the patient is suffering from, with the emphasis being on providing pain relief to the affected region.

Consulting a physiotherapist for using exercises to treat arthritis is important as he is qualified and best suited to prescribe exercises that increase the patient’s mobility and muscle strength.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is a non-surgical option that is used a lot these days, and is a combination of therapeutic exercising and passive treatment. A common form used is providing passive treatment like ice packs or heat packs in combination with exercises to increase the mobility and flexibility of the affected body part and also strengthen the muscle.

Surgical Treatment of Arthritis

If the arthritis is severe and if the patient is experiencing extreme pain and discomfort, then physicians explore surgery as the next treatment option. Surgery is also suggested in cases where the non-surgical treatment is not having any positive impact or where its effect is gradually waning. Surgical treatment of arthritis involves primarily the replacement of the affected joint. Joint replacement surgery is effective in restoring mobility and taking out completely the pain factor, thereby enabling patients to live a normal and pain-free life. Today joint replacement surgery is absolutely safe in well equipped hospitals with experienced surgeons.


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