Friday, July 10, 2015
Moving Beyond the pain of Arthritis-ARTHRITIS IN PROFILE (Part 4)
I’ve been using the term arthritis rather loosely. Strictly speaking, there are 127 different kind of arthritis, some extremely rare, others quite common. Alan Hoffman and Cheryl Lewis represent the two most widespread forms, which I focus on in this blog.
The word arthritis is derived from two Greek words. The first, arthron, means joint. The second, itis, means inflammation. Literally translated then, arthritis means inflammation of a joint. Those with only a cursory understanding of arthritis may mistakenly assume that inflammation is always a bad thing because it triggers arthritis pain.
Although inflammation is a sign of trouble, to be sure, it’s actually a vital renewing process that occurs in response to injury of living tissue. It’s a positive healing process provided it ends in relatively short order and does not linger indefinitely and become chronic. It’s the chronic nature of arthritis inflammation that’s negative and sets in motion the chain reaction leading to arthritis symptoms and sign (such as joint pain, tenderness, warmth, swelling and redness) and complications.
Ostheoarthritis has the distinction of being the oldest and most prevalent chronic disease known to humanity. It’s a degenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of joint cartilage. Fortunately the damage is limited to the musculoskeletal system and it usually involves only one or a few joints. The weight-bearing joints-the feet, knees, hips and spines-as well as the digital joints of the fingers, hands, and toes are most likely to be problem areas.
Until recently experts thought ostheoarthritis resulted from normal wear and tear on a person’s joints over the course of a lifetime. New studies, which compare the changes in an elderly person’s joint cartilage with those in a younger person with ostheoarthritis, make it clear that the cause is not that straightforward and unequivocal. These studies indicate that the two group’s conditions are not always identical. Thus, the current view is that a variety of factors interact to cause ostheoarthritis. These factors are aging, repetitive impact on the body’s weight-bearing joints, genetics, and some other biochemical processes, as yet unknown.
In contrast, the characteristic feature of rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation of the synovial membranes that line the inside of certain joints. Rheumatoid arthritis involves many joints and even moves beyond the musculoskeletal system to other areas of the body, making it challenging to treat. It’s defined as “a chronic, multisystem, inflammatory disease whose cause is unknown. “Rheumatoid arthritis’s so-called “systemic complications,” involving system in the body other that the musculoskeletal system, are what make it so potentially devastating. But it is considerably rarer than ostheoarthritis. Although rheumatoid arthritis is more likely to attack adults, especially women, middle-aged or older, it can occur in juveniles-and does.