Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes, Risk factor, complications and Prevention

The occurence of symptoms of arthritis vary widely, depending on the type which can develop gradually or suddenly.

Updated: November 4, 2019


Joint inflammation is commonly known as arthritis.It is associated with several conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround the joint, and other connective tissue.

Symptoms of Arthritis:

The occurrence of symptoms of arthritis vary widely, depending on the type. They can develop gradually or suddenly. Symptoms may come and go, or persist for a long period of time as it is a chronic disease.
The most common symptoms of arthritis include:

Pain:

Pain from arthritis may come and go or can be constant. It may affect only joints, or be felt in many parts of the body such as back pain.

Swelling:

Te skin over the affected joint becomes red and swollen and feels warm to the touch in some types of arthritis.

Stiffness:

Stiffness is a typical symptom which may be persistent. This is most likely occur upon waking up in the morning or after sitting at some place for a long time. Stiffness may also occur after exercise.

Difficulty moving a joint:

If moving a joint or getting up from a chair is hard or painful, this could indicate arthritis or another joint problem.

Rheumatoid arthritis:

RA usually affects the joints on both sides of the body equally as it is a systemic disease. The joints of the wrists, fingers, ankles, feet and knees are most commonly affected.
Joint symptoms may include:

  • morning stiffness, lasting more than 1 hour
  • pain, often in the same joints on both sides of the body
  • loss of range of motion of joints, possibly with deformity

Other symptoms include:

  • chest pain when breathing in, due to pleurisy
  • sleep difficulties
  • eye burning, itching, and discharge
  • dry eyes and mouth, if Sjogren's syndrome is present
  • nodules under the skin, usually a sign of more severe disease
  • numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands and feet

Osteoarthritis:

Wear and tear on the joints results in osteoarthritis. Joints that have been overworked such as the left or right knee, shoulder or wrist gets more affected by this kind of arthritis. People with osteoarthritis may experience the following symptoms:

  • morning stiffness
  • pain and stiffness in the joints
  • rubbing, grating, or crackling sound when a joint is moved
  • pain that becomes worse after exercise or pressure on the joint
  • pain that causes sleep disturbances

The changes in bone structure due to osteoarthritis can show up in an x-ray, even if the symptoms are not experienced in some cases.

Childhood arthritis:

Symptoms of childhood arthritis include:

  • a joint that is swollen, red, or warm
  • a joint that is stiff or limited in movement
  • limping or difficulty using an arm or leg
  • symptoms throughout the body, such as pale skin, swollen lymph glands
  • a rash on the trunk and extremities that comes and goes with the fever
  • a sudden high fever that may come and go
  • generally appearing unwell

Juvenile RA can also cause eye problems including uveitis, iridocyclitis, or iritis.
Red eyes, eye pain, especially when looking at light and vision changes are most common symptoms of these eye disease.

Septic arthritis:

Symptoms of septic arthritis include fever, joint swelling in one joint and intense joint pain that becomes more severe with movement which occur rapidly. The symptoms may vary with different age group.
Symptoms in newborns or infants include:

  • crying when the infected joint is moved
  • fever
  • inability to move the limb with the infected joint
  • irritability

Symptoms in children and adults include:

  • inability to move the limb with the infected joint
  • intense joint pain, swelling, and redness
  • fever.

Sometimes fever comes with chills, but are an uncommon symptom.

Fibromyalgia:

Fibromyalgia may have symptoms that vary from person to person. Symptoms may include:

  • widespread pain, often with specific tender points
  • morning stiffness
  • headaches, including migraines
  • fatigue
  • psychological stress
  • sleep disturbance
  • tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Painful menstrual periods and other pain syndromes
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • fibro fog, a problem with thinking and memory

Psoriatic arthritis:

Mild symptoms of psoriatic arthritis involve only a few joints such as the end of the fingers or toes. It can affect multiple joints, including the spine when severe resulting in stiffness, burning, and pain. The skin gets worse and changes of psoriasis can be seen in skin and nail.

Gout:

Symptoms of gout involve:

  • pain and swelling, often in the big toe, knee, or ankle joints
  • warm and tender joints that appear red and swollen
  • sudden pain, often during the night, which may be throbbing, crushing, or excruciating
  • fever sometimes occurs

A person can develop tophi if a person is suffering from gout for many years. Tophi are lumps below the skin, typically around the joints or apparent on fingertips and ears.
Small tophi may develop to a large white lump or multiple tophi can form a large white lump which can cause deformation and stretching of the skin. Sometimes, tophi burst and drain spontaneously. A white, chalky substance is drained leading to infection or osteomyelitis. At times urgent surgery is required to drain the tophus.

Sjogren's syndrome:

Symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome include:

  • dry and itchy eyes, and a feeling that something is in the eye
  • dry mouth
  • loss of sense of taste
  • difficulty swallowing or eating
  • thick or stringy saliva
  • problems speaking
  • hoarseness
  • mouth sores or pain
  • swollen glands
  • fatigue
  • change in color of hands or feet
  • joint pain or joint swelling
  • fever

Scleroderma:

Symptoms of scleroderma may include:

  • fingers or toes that turn blue or white in response to cold temperatures, known as Raynaud's phenomenon
  • stiffness and tightness of skin on the fingers, hands, forearm, and face
  • hair loss
  • skin that becomes darker or lighter than normal
  • numbness and pain in the feet
  • pain, stiffness, and swelling of the wrist, fingers, and other joints
  • small white lumps beneath the skin that sometimes ooze a white substance that looks like toothpaste
  • sores or ulcers on the fingertips or toes
  • tight and mask-like skin on the face
  • difficulty swallowing
  • esophageal reflux or heartburn
  • dry cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing
  • gastrointestinal problems, such as bloating after meals, constipation, and diarrhea

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE):

The most common signs of SLE, or lupus, are:

  • red rash or color change on the face, often in the shape of a butterfly across the nose and cheeks
  • painful or swollen joints
  • low blood count
  • swollen glands
  • chest pain when breathing deeply
  • unusual hair loss
  • pale or purple fingers or toes from cold or stress
  • sensitivity to the sun
  • extreme fatigue
  • depression, trouble thinking or memory problems
  • unexplained fever

Mouth sores, unexplained seizures, hallucinations, repeated miscarriages, and unexplained kidney problems are some of the rare symptoms.

Causes of Arthritis:

There is no single cause associated with all types of arthritis. The causes vary according to the type or form of arthritis.
Possible causes for different type of arthritis may include:

  • injury, in case of degenerative arthritis
  • abnormal metabolism, resulting in gout and pseudogout
  • inheritance, for osteoarthritis
  • infections, such as in the arthritis of Lyme disease
  • immune system dysfunction, for RA and SLE

Most of the time a combination of factors are responsible for causing many types of arthritis. But for some there is unexplained cause and appear to be unpredictable in their emergence.
Genetics may also be responsible for developing certain arthritic conditions. Previous injury, infection and smoking are some of the additional factors, that can interact with genes to further increase the risk of arthritis.
Diet and nutrition can help managing arthritis and the risk of arthritis. Animal-derived foods and diets high in refined sugar increase inflammation and can make symptoms worse. An immune system response can get provoked by eating these foods. Gout arthritis is related to diet, as it is caused by increased levels of uric acid which can be a result of a diet high in purines.
Seafood, red wine, and meats are some of the food rich in purines can trigger a gout flare-up. However, vegetables and other plant foods that contain high levels of purines do not trigger gout symptoms.

Risk factors for Arthritis:

Risk factors for arthritis could be either modifiable or non-modifiable. Modifiable arthritis risk factors include:

Overweight and obesity:

Excess weight can contribute to both the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis. You can follow a diet plan and do regular exercise to reduce your weight which in turn reduce the risk factor for developing osteoarthritis.

Joint injuries:

Damage to a joint can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint. Take utmost care to avoid injuries to avoid this risk factor.

Infection:

Many microbial agents can infect joints and trigger the development of various forms of arthritis.

Occupation:

Certain occupations that involve repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. You can change your occupation to avoid this risk factor.
Non-modifiable arthritis risk factors include:

Age:

The risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.

Sex:

Being female is a non modifiable risk factor associated with most types of arthritis. More percent of people affected with arthritis are female. Gout is more common in males than females.

Genetic factors:

Specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis. For example rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and ankylosing spondylitis are all associated with this risk factor.

Complications of Arthritis:

High blood pressure is the most common complaint of people with arthritis. This can lead to many complications associated with heart. High blood pressure causes inflammation and irritation of the inner lining of the coronary arteries leading to heart attack. Because of increased vascular resistance or high blood pressure in the lungs, the enlargement and failure of the right ventricle of the heart can occur which is known as Pulmonary heart disease. Chronic respiratory conditions is another complication arises from this disease.
Rheumatic fever caused by streptococcal infection can result in heart muscles and valves damage. Damage to the heart valves is known as rheumatic heart disease (RHD). This usually occurs after repeated attacks but can sometimes occur after one attack. The damaged valves may result in heart failure, atrial fibrillation and infection of the valves.

Prevention of Arthritis:

Prevention of arthritis can be done by focusing on avoiding joint injury and early diagnosis and treatment. Damage, deformity, disability, and even mortality in rheumatoid disease can be prevented to some extent by early diagnosis and treatment. Maintaining overall good health and strength with exercise and good nutrition can be beneficial in preventing joint disease.


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