Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints, but can also affect other structures (tendons, ligaments...). Arthritis can have several causes, especially trauma, infection, autoimmune disease or chronic inflammatory joint disease such as ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis can affect a single joint (monoarthritis) - such as the case of gout, several joints that are close to each other (oligoarthritis), or many joints (polyarthritis) - such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of arthritis are similar to those of any other inflammation: redness, heat, swelling, pain.
The symptoms are then variable depending on the condition in question. In general, we find:
- sore tendons which may tend to disappear with movements during a benign evolution;
- joint stiffness;
- effusion, marking the presence of fluid in the joint;
- severe fatigue;
- the appearance of nodules at an advanced stage;
- inflammation of the big toe, which generally points to gout.
The diagnosis of arthritis can be made simply based on the symptoms presented by the patient. The fact of finding one or more joints that are red, hot and swollen with limited motion and pain, immediately points to a diagnosis of arthritis.
In advanced forms, X-rays allow us to observe the destruction of the bone, but ultrasounds and MRIs will mainly be used. It is also possible to conduct a joint fluid sample in order to detect signs directing to a diagnosis.
The treatment of the cause is essential if a diagnosis can be made that correlates to a specific treatment. In addition, there are several ways to relieve arthritis. On the one hand, physical therapists can help decrease joint stiffness and relieve pain. Resting the joint is recommended to fight against the pain. Also, a cold compress can be applied to the joint for a short period of time to alleviate inflammation. Medicines exist to fight against the pain, mainly anti-inflammatory drugs. But when the latter do not suffice, doctors will propose corticosteroid injections.
To prevent arthritis, it is most important to maintain proper weight, which prevents pain in the joints, especially those of the lower limbs. Moreover, in some types of arthritis such as gout, you should avoid certain foods such as beer, and do not overeat other foods such as meat, fish, or dairy.