How does a joint work?
In a normal joint the end of the bone is covered by a layer of cartilage which is very strong and very smooth. The joint is lubricated by synovial fluid and the combination of cartilage and the lubricating fluid allows the joint to move with minimal friction which allows smooth pain free motion over a long period of time.
What is Arthritis
Arthritis is basically a painful joint.
In general terms arthritis can be broken down into 2 main types.
These are: osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis
This is the most common type of arthritis and is essentially wear and tear arthritis or degeneration.
In Osteoarthritis the cartilage has worn out, and as a result the body produces bone spurs around the joint and lots of scar tissue. This means that the joint no longer has a smooth surface which makes movement painful and the scar tissue makes the joint very stiff.
Most of the time the osteoarthritis will affect the whole joint but sometimes it will only affect one part of the joint.
In the early stages of arthritis pain will occur after activity and will get better with rest. As the arthritis progresses patients get pain all of the time and pain that wakes them up at night
What conditions predispose to osteoarthritis?
Many people develop arthritis with no known factors that have predisposed them. If you have had a significant injury to a joint it is more likely to develop arthritis. If you are severely overweight this puts stress on your joints and may lead to early arthritis.
How do you treat arthritis?
In the early stages the pain can be treated with simple painkillers. It is important to keep the muscles in good shape and keep the joints moving. For this reason, physiotherapy is often helpful. As the pain gets worse, stronger and more frequent pain killers may be needed. Sometimes an injection into the joint may be helpful. When the pain is severe and interfering with your life it may be appropriate to consider having a partial or total joint replacement. If the arthritis is not at the advanced 'bone on bone' stage, or you are considered too young or active for replacement surgery, then realignment surgery may be indicated.
There are lots of different causes of inflammatory arthritis but the most common is Rheumatoid arthritis. Other types include psoriatic arthritis and SLE or LUPs arthritis.
In inflammatory arthritis the body’s immune system attacks the joint which causes swelling and inflammation. This can erode the cartilage and cause the lining tissue or synovium to swell and cause the joint to become unstable or deformed.
In the early stages patients complain of joint swelling and pain especially in the morning. The joints may be warm, swollen and painful. Fortunately, with appropriate medication inflammatory arthritis can often be controlled. If you have inflammatory arthritis you may be referred to a rheumatologist who is a doctor who specialises in the treatment of these conditions.
When the arthritis gets severe and medication no longer works one option is to have a joint replacement.