Arthritis, an inflammation or damage of the joints of the body, can be classified as either inflammatory or non-inflammatory. Inflammatory arthritis is a type of arthritis that involves the immune system and inflammation of the joints. It's an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system attacks its own antibodies, i.e. white blood cells in the joint fluid, leading to different types of medical problems. In inflammatory arthritis, the body considers its own tissues as a foreign object and responds to this foreign object with inflammation.
Inflammatory arthritis may occur due to certain types of bacteria or by deposits of crystalline structures in the joints as with gout and pseudogout. In the case of gout or pseudogout, the body is unable to rid itself of adequate amounts of these crystalline structures due to various metabolic disorders that occur with age. This results in excessive waste product deposition in the joints, especially in the knee and the big toe, and very occasionally in the spine which eventually leads to this medical condition.
- Pain or swelling in one or more joints
- Feeling of warmness in the affected area
- Stiffness and decreased ability to move the affected joints
- Redness and tenderness of the skin around the joints
- Minor illness like sore throat or cold due to emotional stress
- Multiple joint disorders
Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is an autoimmune disease in which the antibodies developed by the body attack the synovial membrane that encloses each joint. It causes chronic inflammation of the joints, especially the peripheral joints like fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. The disorder may also affect non-joint organ systems such as the lung, eye, skin, and cardiovascular system. Hence, it is also referred as systemic illness or rheumatoid disease. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Weight loss
- Vague aches and pains
Systemic Lupus: Systemic lupus erythematosus is another autoimmune disease that occurs due to inflammation of the connective tissues and organs. The severity of the disease can be mild to severe, depending upon the number and type of antibodies, and part of the body affected. Being more common in young women, in lupus, the body's immune system generates antibodies that attack the body's organs and connective tissues. Lupus generally flares up due to exposure to sunlight or drugs for the heart, like hydralazine, procainamide, and beta-blockers. Symptoms of lupus include:
- Skin rashes
- Joint pains
- Swelling and redness around the nails
Ankylosing Spondylitis: This is a chronic, inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disorder, that causes inflammation of joints in the spine and the sacroiliac joint in the pelvis, leading to eventual fusion of the spine. Being more common in women, it involves ankylosing, or hardening of the ligaments and tendons connected to the bones. Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are:
- Intense back pains
- Trouble while relaxing and breathing deeply
- Painful and swollen eyes
- Vision loss
Reiter's Syndrome: This is a chronic, progressive type of inflammatory arthritis that involves inflammation of the joints and tendon connected to the joints, the skeleton, and sometimes the eye's conjunctiva, and the mucous membranes. The syndrome is diagnosed when reactive arthritis (inflammation of the joints due to bacterial infections) is evident, and at least one other non-joint area, such as the eyes, skin or muscles, is affected. Symptoms of Reiter's syndrome include:
- Inflammation of the urethra
- Pain and discharge from the genitals
- Redness and inflammation of the conjunctiva
- Joints pain and inflammation especially in the knees, toe joints, heels, etc.
Psoriatic Arthritis: This is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by the inflammation of the skin (psoriasis) and joints (arthritis). Though the actual cause for psoriatic arthritis is still unknown, hereditary, environmental factors, and immune system disorders can be some probable causes. Rarely a person can have psoriatic arthritis without having obvious psoriasis, and the disorder often affects the tips of the elbows and knees, the scalp, the navel, and around the genital areas or anus. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are:
- Pain and swelling in the joints
- Redness of the areas around the affected joint
- Inflammation of the spine (spondylitis) and the sacrum
- Pain and stiffness in the low back, buttocks, neck, and upper back
Water aerobics and a regular exercise program are highly effective in avoiding stiffness of the joints. A diet low in proteins and high in carbohydrates is the most healthy diet for the people affected by inflammatory arthritis. Food products that may trigger the inflammatory arthritis symptoms such as milk and dairy products, beef, corn, and wheat, should be avoided as far as possible. Fruits like mangosteen and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as cold-water fish, walnut, flaxseeds, etc., would be helpful in treating the pain and inflammation associated with this medical condition.
Pain relief medications and natural remedies are also effective ways to treat symptoms of the different types. However, before implementing these treatments, one should consult a doctor to determine the underlying cause for the problem, and if there are any side effects or reactions of these treatments to other medications or food.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.