Do you feel that your joints are swollen? Do you feel the stiffness in your joints in the morning time and that stays for over an hour? Do you feel that your joints are painful and there is tenderness in the joints? It may happen that you feel your whole body is affected by the above symptoms or you might get some other symptoms like hair loss, skin rashes, fever, dry mouth and eye inflammation. All these symptoms are of a serious illness that can damage the joints to a high level called Inflammatory Arthritis. The thing is that Inflammatory Arthritis is actually a group of diseases that is generally characterized by the inflammation of the joints and some other tissues. In inflammatory arthritis the body’s defence system (immune system) triggers an inflammatory response against their host cell rather than foreign substances (infection) or abnormal cell (cancer) to fight off. The body responds as if normal tissues are infected or somehow foreign.
Inflammatory Arthritis includes the following:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: This one is an autoimmune disease. In this disease, the immune system of the patient itself attacks the joints of the body. This leads to the inflammation of the tissue lining the insides of the joints (the synovium), making it thicken and result in pain and swelling of the joints.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: In this one, the immune system of the body attacks the joints and the skin of the patient itself instead of protecting them. Psoriasis is a skin disease causing the itchy, scaly rashes and the crumbling nails. People having the problem of Psoriasis can develop this type of Inflammatory Arthritis having the problem in their joints and the skin. This one affects the whole body and can actually permanently damage the tissue and joints if not diagnosed and treated early.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis: This disease is a dangerous one. It affects the joints and ligaments that are present along the spine. The inflammation in the beginning causes pain and stiffness in the lower back and progresses to the upper spine, neck and chest. With time, the vertebrae can fuse together which can cause the spine to get inflexible and rigid. The joints like shoulders, knees and hips can also get affected and this disease can also affect organs as it is systemic disease.
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: This one is the most common form of arthritis found in children. It is an auto-inflammatory disease. It has six subtypes and they are:
- Systemic JIA: This one causes inflammation of joints and come up with high fever lasting for at least 2 weeks and a skin rash is also accompanied.
- Oligoarticular JIA: Causes the inflammation in larger joints like elbows, knees and ankles. Children affected with this one are more prone to chronic eye inflammation (uveitis).
- Polyarticular JIA: This one causes inflammation in five or more joints and especially to the smaller ones like hands and fingers. With this, the jaws and the weight-bearing joints can also get affected.
- Juvenile psoriatic arthritis: This one is caused with the combination of skin and joints inflammation.
- Enthesitis-related JIA: The tenderness called enthesitis, where bone meets the ligament, tendon or other connective tissue gets inflamed in this disease. It is most likely to occur in hips, knees and feet. It is more common in boys of the age between 8-15.
- Undifferentiated Arthritis: This one is used to describe the type that has symptoms of two or more subtypes.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: This disease is a chronic, autoimmune one. Lupus is a systemic disease and affects major part of the body which includes the kidneys, joints, blood, skin, brain and many other organs. This one is the most dangerous form of Lupus and can cause very serious damage to the organs of the body.
WHAT CAUSES THE SYMPTOMS OF INFLAMMATORY ARTHRITIS?
When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the tissue are released into the joint fluid or surrounding tissues. This release of chemicals increases the blood flow and may result in redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. This process may stimulate nerves and cause pain. Increased blood flow and release of these chemicals attract white blood cells to the sites of inflammation. The increased number of cells and inflammatory substances within the joint can cause irritation, wearing down of cartilage (cushions at the end of bones), and swelling of the joint lining (synovium).
HOW ARE INFLAMMATORY DISEASES DIAGNOSED?
Diagnosis of inflammatory joint diseases consists of all or some of the following:
- Complete medical history and physical exam with attention to the pattern of joint involvement
- Evaluation of other symptoms besides joint symptoms
- Results of X-rays, blood tests, and other studies
HOW ARE INFLAMMATORY JOINT DISEASES TREATED?
There are a number of treatment options for inflammatory joint diseases including medications rest, exercise, braces, splints, or canes to reduce stress on the joints and surgery to correct joint damage. The type of treatment prescribed will depend on several factors including the type of disease, the person’s age, type of medications he or she is taking, overall health, medical history, and severity of symptoms.
The goals of treatment are to:
- Treat the underlying inflammatory disease and decrease inflammation
- Relieve pain by medication, activity modification
- Maintain joint movement, muscle strength and overall function through physical therapy and exercises
WHAT DRUGS ARE USED TO TREAT INFLAMMATORY DISEASES?
There are many drugs available to decrease joint pain, swelling, and/or inflammation and hopefully prevent or minimize the progression of the inflammatory disease. These medications include:
- Anti-inflammatory pain reliever drugs (NSAIDS– such as aspirin, ibuprofen or(Celebrex)
- narcotic pain relievers
- Corticosteroids (such as prednisone).
- Other medications include chemotherapy drugs, disease modifying drug, biologic therapy to alter and suppress inflammatory process
Medications of 4th point are potent, requiring close follow-up by your physician. When these drugs are prescribed, it is important to consult your doctor regularly to check its effectiveness and timely detection of any side effects.