How Do You Get Arthritis?
How Do You Get Arthritis?
Arthritis is a condition characterized by stiffness and inflammation (swelling) of the joints. While you may only experience mild discomfort at the outset, the symptoms can become debilitating over time. Your risk for arthritis can increase with age, but it is not an elderly person’s disease. Furthermore, there are different risk factors associated with different types of arthritis. Understanding the causes and risk factors can help you and your doctor take preventive measures in advance.
Which Type of Arthritis Is It?
Joints are spots in the body where two bones come together. With arthritis, joints become inflamed and cause pain when the bones rub against each other. You may also notice a rash or heat at the site. Joint pain from arthritis is common in the knees, elbows, shoulders, wrists, fingers, and toes.
Constant pain turns into stiffness and decreased mobility. The symptoms are particularly problematic if the affected areas limit your ability to walk or complete other everyday activities. You may experience symptoms at one or multiple locations in the body. Just as the location of arthritis varies, not all patients have the same type of arthritis.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. Age is the greatest risk factor for OA. The normal pain and stiffness associated with getting older doesn’t go away if you have this condition. Previous injuries in childhood and young adulthood can also cause osteoarthritis, even if you think you fully recovered.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the second most common type of arthritis. It is a type of autoimmune disease in which the body attacks tissues in the joints. The risk of getting this form of arthritis is higher if you already have another type of autoimmune disorder, such as lupus, Hashimoto’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. Pain and visible swelling, especially in the hands, characterize this condition. Fatigue and fever can accompany your symptoms.
The third most common type of arthritis is gout, a condition caused by uric acid deposits on the joints. This crystallization makes it difficult for bones to move, and is extremely painful. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that four percent of American adults develop gout, primarily in their middle ages. It’s attributed to an increase of uric acid in the blood often contributed by dietary factors. Obesity-related conditions can also increase your risk for high uric acid and gout. Signs of gout start in the toes, but may spread to other joints in the body.
Arthritis occurs in the joints. Still, other skin and organ conditions can lead to arthritis. These include:
- fibromyalgia (painful musculoskeletal disorder)
- psoriasis (skin disease caused by excessive skin cell turnover)
- Sjogren’s syndrome (disorder that causes decreased saliva and tears)
Arthritis in Children
While arthritis can develop later in adulthood, age isn’t the only risk factor. In children 16 years of age and younger, symptoms are caused by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). According to the Arthritis Foundation, JRA is an autoimmune disorder related to over one dozen gene mutations. This means that your own body attacks healthy tissues, causing subsequent inflammation and pain. JRA can also be hereditary. There is no way to prevent JRA, but early detection can prompt treatment measures that can make moving around a little easier.
In some cases, getting sick can actually cause arthritis. This happens when a viral or bacterial infection attacks the joints. For instance, reactive arthritis is a type of infection most commonly attributed to bladder infections, although it can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections. Some fungal infections and food-borne illnesses can also cause arthritis. The infection has the opportunity to spread to other joints, causing the telltale arthritis symptoms. You may also experience other symptoms of infection, such as fever and loss of appetite.
Can You Prevent Arthritis?
Given the painful and debilitating nature of arthritis, you may wonder how you can prevent it in the first place. Unfortunately, there is no one preventive measure for the disease, especially considering all of the different forms of arthritis that exist. Having an autoimmune disorder increases your risk, so you should monitor any early symptoms carefully. When considering osteoarthritis and gout, you may reduce your risk by regular exercise and eating a balanced diet.
You should have your doctor evaluate any joint and body pain that you experience. Arthritis is primarily diagnosed with X-rays, although blood work may also be ordered to detect related autoimmune disorders. While some forms of arthritis are preventable, seeking an early diagnosis can mean the difference between debilitation and moving about your day. Aside from medication, your physician can guide you through stretches and exercises that can help make you feel better.
- Arthritis. (n.d.). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/arthritis.html
- Do I Have Arthritis? (2010, March). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases. Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Arthritis/tengo_artritis.asp
- Infectious Arthritis (n.d). Medline Plus. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/infectiousarthritis.html
- Types of Arthritis. (n.d.). Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://www.arthritistoday.org/about-arthritis/types-of-arthritis/index.php?utm_source=AF&utm_medium=leftrail&utm_campaign=types