May is Arthritis Awareness Month!
Hey you guys! Thanks for stopping by! I hope that everyone out there is pumped to have a little knowledge dropped on their… face, or whatever. Hopefully last week’s post full of poop puns didn’t scare too many of you off. I’m sorry, you just can’t write an awareness blog post about Irritable Bowel Disease without a few jokes. Honestly, I think a little humor can make a world of difference when it comes to shitty health conditions. (LOL, sorry. I’m done, I swear!)
Today’s topic for the awareness blog is way harder to make puns about, so you’re all safe for now. Today, were gonna talk about one of the most common health issues out there. Drumroll, please… Arthritis! This month is Arthritis awareness month, and considering how many people are affected by it, I think it’s about damn time we get around to discussing it.
So, I’m guessing that everyone knows someone with arthritis. What you may not know is that there are different types of arthritis, and the effects of each kind can vary greatly. So, let’s break it down, shall we?
Arthritis is divided into three groups: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Within those three types of Arthritis, there are subsets of the condition, or diseases that cause the condition. There are more than 100 specific kinds, so I won’t bother listing them.
Osteoarthritis is typically an age-related issue that occurs over time as wear and tear begins to damage the joints and surrounding tissue. Osteoarthritis commonly affects the joints that get the most use, meaning hands, feet, and weight bearing areas like spine, hips or knees. As we age, our cartilage gets worn out, which leaves us with less and less cushion to absorb the shock of everyday physical activity. As you can imagine, given what we’ve just learned about wear and tear, obesity is a major cause of osteoarthritis in those younger than the average osteoarthritis patients. Because there is so much extra pressure on the joints, the cartilage gets worn down more quickly. Osteoarthritis causes the joints to become painful. Over time, function of the specific joints affected may decrease.
Depending on the joint, there may be surgical options available, when medication no longer helps or function is too poor. Some joints can be completely replaced with new artificial joints so that the patient can get back to their normal physical activities. Hip replacements have come a long way from what they used to be, might I add. Other types of joint replacements include knee replacement, shoulder replacement, and even finger joint replacement (called PIP). Of course, joint replacements aren’t right for everyone, and some may not be healthy enough to undergo the surgery. Osteoarthritis is kind of one of those unavoidable health issues, it’s just a matter of what age it will begin and what joints it will affect. It usually begins in the joints that get the most use.
Osteoarthritis is usually managed with NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medications that are not a steroid), over the counter pain relievers, analgesics (to numb the affected area), dietary supplements for joint health, and even with narcotics, as a last resort. Surgery is also an option for some. There are many self-care options, too, like icing the joint (which is a good idea because it reduces inflammation), products like Bengay or IcyHot, weight loss to reduce pressure on the joints, and exercise (even though it sounds counterintuitive, it keep the synovial fluid moving which helps).
Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis in pretty much every way except for the painful joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, also called RA, is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks it’s own healthy cells instead of invaders such as a virus or bacteria. With RA, the immune system attacks the joints in particular. Over time, the immune system attacking healthy cells leads to inflammation, and inflammation can lead to permanent damage. This is why treatment and early diagnosis is crucial to preventing long-term damage, which can be potentially debilitating in some cases. RA can appear at any age, even children, which is it’s own classification of the disease, called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. RA is not caused by normal wear and tear, but by the immune system, so age doesn’t discriminate either for or against it. RA can appear out of the blue, suddenly, or gradually over a long period of time.
Symptoms of RA are different than osteoarthritis. Typically, the pain in the joints is worse than that of osteoarthritis, and is accompanied by a deep, aching pain. Joints can become stiff, especially noticeable first thing in the morning, easing as the morning goes on. It can cause the joints to look red and swollen, even warm to the touch. These are all indications of the damaging inflammation. It may also affect range of motion, limiting the joints function. One of the less common symptoms is something called rheumatoid nodules, affecting around one in five RA patients. Rheumatoid nodules are bumps that occur over the joints that are under the most pressure. You’ve most likely seen images of them affecting the knuckles. They can be red and just appear as if the joint itself was very swollen, or they can also present as smaller bumps along the joint. Either way, they are a telltale symptom of RA. Another characteristic of RA is that there tends to be symmetry to the affected joints, meaning that if a patient has it in one knee, they likely have it in the other knee as well. Over time, if the disease is not managed or isn’t well controlled other joints will become affected by the disease because RA can be progressive in nature. People with RA can experience chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, and fibromyalgia. As if all of this weren’t enough, RA can also involve other organs, such as eyes, lungs, or even heart.
Last, but not least, we have psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, is also an autoimmune disorder. Generally, people who suffer from Psoriasis are the ones that develop Psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that commonly presents over joints, like the elbows. Psoriasis has a red, scaly, patchy appearance, often accompanied by white spots that can flake off. Having psoriasis does not necessarily mean that one will develop Psoriatic arthritis, though. About one third of psoriasis patients end up developing psoriatic arthritis. And, generally, people develop the skin condition before psoriatic arthritis, rather than the other way around. Of course, there are exceptions to that, and some will develop psoriatic arthritis before psoriasis.
Psoriatic arthritis can sometimes be misdiagnosed, particularly because it can look similar to the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis or gout. It also seems to run in families, like many of the autoimmune diseases. In fact, up to 40 percent of those with psoriatic arthritis have blood relatives with a skin or joint condition. Patients are usually diagnosed between the ages of 30 to 50, but it can occur in children and young adults.
Treatment for both RA and psoriatic arthritis are similar because they are both autoimmune diseases. With autoimmune diseases, treating the disease usually means trying to get the immune system to stop attacking itself, and that is done using the same pool of medications for many of the diseases. The first line of defense is usually NSAIDs and over the counter pain medicines (for inflammatory issues, ibuprofen is best). Steroids can be very effective in reducing inflammation, but they come with a lot of side effects. Biologics and DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs), and even some forms of chemotherapy (usually methotrexate) are used to threat them as well. The treatment depends on severity, which is why it is so important to get it under control early on, so that you can avoid the drugs with more serious side effects.
That’s the deal, folks. This was just a brief overview, and each type of arthritis could easily be a separate post. I’m sure I’ll get to do that at some point, too. I hope this was an easy to digest run-down of the differences and basics of each kind of arthritis. People tend to find there is more to it than they thought.
To wrap things up, I’d like to very quickly explain a little bit about our awareness blog. This awareness blog is dedicated to raising awareness about many different kinds of illnesses and causes. We tend to choose our post topics based on current awareness observances, like awareness months or awareness days recognized in the U.S. or worldwide. The awareness blog is run on behalf of Personalized Cause, who also hosts the awareness blog on their website.
Personalized Cause is an awareness apparel company that specialized in custom awareness pins. Personalized Cause is the only U.S. company to offer their customers low volume personalized awareness ribbons. Customers can choose any name, date, phrase, or message they want to be engraved on a cloisonné awareness ribbon pin. The pins are beautiful quality, and very affordable. Custom awareness ribbon pins are a powerful way to support someone going through a health crisis, or lifelong health journey.
Arthritis is represented by a blue awareness ribbon, but there are special ribbons to signify rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. RA is represented by a purple and blue awareness ribbon. Psoriatic arthritis is represented by an orange and lavender awareness ribbon.
To order a blue awareness ribbon, click here:
To order a purple and blue awareness ribbon, click here:
To order an orange and lavender awareness ribbon, click here:
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