Arthritis refers to the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. People with arthritis usually experience some form of pain and swelling of the joints due to inflammation. The joints become stiff or deformed and mobility will be affected. Joint pain and stiffness typically worsen with age.
There are two most common types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is a degenerative disease due to ‘wear-and-tear’ over time. Therefore, osteoarthritis is common among people over 50 years old. However, younger people are also at risk of developing osteoarthritis caused by sports injuries.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the joints starts to wear out. It most commonly affects joints in the hands, hips, knees, neck, and lower back.
Osteoarthritis affects more women than men.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis isan autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorder. The immune system attacks healthy cells in the body by mistake, causing inflammation (painful swelling) of the affected parts of the body.
This condition can occur at any age, but most commonly seen in middle-aged people.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the joints and other parts such as blood vessels, eyes, mouth, heart, lungs, and skin.
Treatment is essential to prevent development of other conditions or diseases such as anaemia, fibrosis of the lung, risks of heart attack, stroke, or some cancers.
- Dull aches at affected joints
- Stiffness and swelling of affected joints
- Affected joints may be warm to touch
- A sensation of grating or grinding of the affected joint caused by rubbing of the damaged cartilages surfaces (called crepitation)
- Decreased range of motion
- Changes in surrounding joints
- Cysts in your hand that may cause ridging or dents in the nail plate of the affected finger
Some risk factors of developing arthritis are beyond your control such as age, gender, and family history.
There are also other risk factors that are modifiable such as being overweight or obese, sedentary lifestyle, being a smoker, and having a poor posture.
Your doctor would first question your general health and symptoms before conducting a thorough physical examination.
Diagnosis is made based on your reported symptoms, physical examination, and investigations.
- Lab tests such as blood test, urinalysis, and joint fluid analysis are done todetermine the form of arthritis or rule out other conditions.
- X-ray images can help detect cartilage loss, bone damage, bone spurs, and to monitor disease progression.
- High-frequency sound waves are used in ultrasound to help create images of cartilage, soft tissues, and other structures near the joints.
- Computerised Tomography (CT) scan is useful to examine joints that are hard to evaluate using conventional X-ray.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans provide detailed cross-sectional images of soft tissues (cartilage, tendons, ligaments), bones, and joints.
You may be treated with a combination of treatments depending on the type of arthritis.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are usedto reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness in osteoarthritis.
- Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) are used to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and save affected joints and tissues from permanent damage.
- Corticosteroid such as prednisone can be used to reduce inflammation. Steroids can occasionally be injected directly into a joint to relieve pain and swelling.
- Physiotherapy can help improve range of motion, strengthen muscles and ligaments to stabilise the joints.
- Surgery may be recommended if symptoms worsen or if other treatment methods were ineffective in relieving symptoms.
- Surgery is performed to correct joint deformity or to replace a badly damaged joint.
Gleneagles Hospital works with orthopaedic specialists to assist patients through diagnosis and treatment. The caring and multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals are available for consultation and to provide the best care.