#HEALTH: Addressing Arthritis

19 October 2022

For those with arthritis, even the simplest everyday action, such as standing up or bending over, can cause immense pain.

While it is widely known that arthritis presents itself more often in older people, those in their twenties can also develop arthritis with symptoms worsening as they age.

Arthritis remains a leading cause of pain and disability worldwide, encompassing more than a hundred forms of arthritis and related diseases. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults who have arthritis report that it limits their leisure activities and work, and 25 per cent say it causes severe pain.

There are two main types of arthritis - degenerative and inflammatory, both of which will cause immense pain if left untreated.

Degenerative arthritis is caused by wear and tear in a joint. It is usually non-symmetrical because it only affects a particular joint on one side of the body.

"When a person overuses their joints, such as their knees or shoulders, they tend to develop degenerative arthritis which will decrease their range of motion," says Sunway Medical Centre consultant rheumatologist, Dr Cheah Chee Ken.

Symptoms of degenerative arthritis are more concentrated on the joints with symptoms such as pain, joint stiffness, swelling and redness.

The pain symptom from degenerative arthritis is mechanical in nature, meaning it is worse on movement and relieved with rest.

Inflammatory arthritis describes a group of joint diseases with inflammatory joint pain as the main feature. Features of inflammatory joint pain include pain at rest, marked early morning joint stiffness and joint swelling with occasional skin redness.

It can be caused by different conditions, ranging from acute injury, infections, or by an overactive immune system that attacks the joints (also known as autoimmune diseases).

In particular cases of immune mediated arthritis, the immune response does not know how to differentiate its own self from foreign substances, leading to ongoing inflammation and subsequently permanent joint damage.

Unlike degenerative arthritis, inflammatory arthritis may affect multiple joints simultaneously and symmetrically. systemic symptoms such as fatigue are common.

Treatment for arthritis involves arresting inflammation (as prolonged inflammation leads to structural damages), controlling pain and symptoms and preserving joint functions and maintaining quality of life.

Certain conditions require simple steps such as exercises and physiotherapy, while in some cases surgery may be required.

As for the various types of inflammatory arthritis, treatment mainly consists of medical therapy. Therefore, it is advised to seek consultation from a healthcare provider.

Dr Cheah Chee Ken is a Consultant Rheumatologist at Sunway Medical Centre.

Source: New Straits Times