Arthritis means joint inflammation, but the term is used to describe around 200 conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround the joint, and other connective tissue. It is a rheumatic condition.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- limited range of motion that sometimes goes away after movement
- clicking or popping with bending
- muscle weakness around the joint
- instability or buckling of the joint
- bony growths in the fingers
- grating or scraping feeling in the knees
Because there are several types of arthritis, it’s important to know which one you have. There are some similarities between these conditions, but there are also some key differences.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It is estimated that around 8.75 million people in the UK have seen a doctor about osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis starts with the roughening of cartilage.
If this happens, the body can put in place a ‘repair’ process to try to make up for the loss of this important substance. The following can then happen:
- Tiny bits of extra bone, called osteophytes, can grow at the ends of a bone within a joint.
- There can be an increase in the amount of thick fluid inside the joint.
- The joint capsule can stretch, and the joint may lose its shape.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. It is what is known as an auto-immune condition.
The immune system is the body’s natural self-defence system, and it protects us from infections and illness. When someone has an auto-immune condition, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy tissues, such as the joints, causing inflammation.
Spondyloarthritis is a word used to describe a number of conditions that cause pain and swelling, mainly around the joints of the spine.
In these conditions there is inflammation of small pieces of connective tissues, called entheses. These are tough little cords that join either ligaments or tendons to bones
Psoriatic arthritis is an auto-immune condition. It is also a type of spondyloarthritis.
The body’s immune system can cause painful swelling and stiffness within and around joints, as well as a red scaly skin rash called psoriasis. The rash can affect several places in the body, including the elbows, knees, back, buttocks and scalp.
Should I see a doctor?
It’s common to have aches and pains in your muscles and joints from time to time. This may especially be true if you take part in unusual or strenuous physical activities.
So, how can you tell the difference between the early signs of arthritis and normal pain and stiffness? And, how do you know when you should see a doctor about your symptoms?
If you have swelling or stiffness that you can’t explain and that doesn’t go away in a few days, or if it becomes painful to touch your joints, you should see a doctor. The earlier you get a diagnosis and start the right type of treatment, the better the outcome will be.