Arthritis is one of the most widespread chronic diseases in the United States. It is also the nations leading cause of disability among Americans over the age of 15. Arthritis limits people from doing every day activities such as walking, dressing, and bathing. The complications associated with arthritis make it the second largest contributor to work related disabilities, heart disease being the most severe (Arthritis Facts, 2012). Many people associate arthritis with severe joint pain and the physical appearance of crooked appendages (as portrayed in Figure 1). Although these symptoms are usually associated with arthritis, arthritis is more complex than this limited description.
Arthritis is defined as inflammation in one or more joints (Clough, 2006). If arthritis is not treated properly, it could result in joint destruction and permanent disability. Once a joint is damaged, nothing can bring that joint back to its normal state (Clough, 2006). Aching and stiffness are symptoms usually associated with arthritis, but having these symptoms do not necessarily mean that a person has arthritis. Common symptoms of arthritis include swelling, tenderness, stiffness, and unusual warmth in joints. Symptoms of arthritis further extend to pain, fatigue, and depression (Arthritis Facts, 2012). The most common symptom of arthritis is pain. The most severe symptoms of arthritis are the disabilities that come as a result of improper and delayed treatment. There are two main categories of factors that make one susceptible to arthritis: non-modifiable and modifiable. A non-modifiable factor is one that cannot be changed or prevented. These factors include being a man or woman over the age of 45, women over 15, having family history of arthritis, and being of the African-American descent. A modifiable factor is one that can be changed or prevented. These factors include obesity, infections, past injuries to joints, and careers that result physical wear on joints (Quinn).
The most common joint disorder is Osteoarthritis. Over 21 million Americans are affected by Osteoarthritis (Clough, 2006). The normal aging and wear-and-tear on a joint causes osteoarthritis. If the cartilage between a joint wears down, the bones surrounding the joint will grind together, causing pain, swelling, and irritation. From this, extra bone will form around the joint, which causes the ligaments and muscles around the joint to become stiffer and weaker (Osteoarthritis, 2011). Symptoms of Osteoarthritis become evident in people around the age of 55. Other than old age, factors that lead to Osteoarthritis include obesity, presence in family lineage, and physical activity that puts direct pressure on joints. Signs of Osteoarthritis include cracking noise due to joint movement, limited range of motion, and joint swelling.
Arthritic diseases have no cure. Fortunately, there are treatments that can help ease the pain of the disease. Over $128 billion of the United States annual economy is spent on the treatment of arthritic diseases (Arthritis Facts, 2012). Treatments of arthritic diseases include drugs, physical therapy, and surgical procedures. A rheumatologist, arthritis specialist, can evaluate the severity and possible treatments of arthritis. One of the most effective and successful characteristics of the treatment of arthritis is self-management (Quinn). Self-management allows the patient to take an active role in their road to recovery from the effects of arthritis. The three main self-management skills are exercise, sleep, and assistive devices. Directly related to arthritis, exercise helps preserve the joint mobility. Because arthritis can cause exhaustion and tiredness, rest is essential for controlling pain. Assistive devices can help relieve stress or pain on certain joints. Such devices include walkers and canes. Along with self-management factors come the prescription of drug treatments. Specific drug treatments are assigned to coincide with the severity of the arthritic disease. These drugs include anti-inflammatory agents, immunosuppressive medicines, and antibiotics (Clough, 2006). For joints that have become mechanically impossible to function, surgical treatment is offered. Areas commonly associated with joint replacement surgery include shoulders, knees, hips, and elbows.
Arthrits Facts. (2012). Retrieved from <http://www.arthritis.org/facts.php>
Clough, John D. Arthritis: A Cleveland Clinic Guide. 2006. <http://books.google.com/books?id=zH2gXOwfa5wC&printsec=frontcover&dq=arthritis&hl=en&sa=X&ei=9o5ZTnNIqbb0QHJ7KTTDw&ved=0CF4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=arthritis&f=false>.
Osteoarthritis. (2011). Retrieved from <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001460/>
Quinn, Pat. “Facts About Arthritis.” Illinois Department of Public Health: Women’s Health. Retrieved from <http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/womenshealth/factsheets/arthrit.htm>