• Blaise Ntacyabukura (MD)

Arthritis : The basics everyone should know

The term arthritis itself means the inflammation of any joint in your body. It can be one or many, what medically is referred to as mono or poly arthritis respectively. Joints are places where two bones meet: for example your elbow, ankle or knee. When there is inflammation inside a joint, its structures (See at the image below) can cause one of the symptoms cited below. However, when it involves bones it is then referred to as osteoarthritis and it is a serious complication.

In most of the cases arthritis happens as a result of a general (systemic) disease such as Rheumatoid arthritis, or as an isolated problem of a given single joint. The risk of having arthritis increases with age as well as body fats (obesity).

Risk factors:

  • Aging

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Obesity

  • Joint injuries

  • Infectious agents

  • Accumulations in joints such as crystals in case of Gout

  • Systemic disorders such Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.

  • Cancers such as Leukemia or myelodysplastic disorders.

How does it present itself?

Arthritis most commonly affects the joints in the hands, knees, hips, and spine and each joint structure affected may lead to different symptoms. The common symptoms include but not limited to:

  • Pain that usually comes when you try to use the joint,

  • Joint stiffness that makes it difficult to move the affected joint,

  • Warmth of the joint when the cause is infectious

  • Swelling of the joint

Those symptoms are aggravated or relieved by different factors such as resting the joint, and the time of day. You can do a free symptom assessment via the AITOPYA app (link to the app).

How is it diagnosed?

If you have some or all aforementioned symptoms above, you might have arthritis. It is good to seek medical treatment as soon as possible to treat your symptoms. The earlier the better..

Usually a doctor needs information about how the symptoms started, possible risk factors to help him/her narrowing the underlying possible causes and diagnoses. As further steps, a doctor also performs a physical examination of the affected joints to objectivate evidence of the disease.

Depending on the type of arthritis suspected, your doctor may suggest some of the following tests: Laboratory tests of joint aspirations or blood, x-ray or advance imaging investigations such as Computerized Tomography Scan (CT-SCAN), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or simply an ultrasound scan of that joint(s).

How is it Treated?

The treatment approach depends on the cause, the suspected or confirmed disease or the duration of your problem. In most cases a doctor, accessible via the AITOPYA app, has to treat symptoms mainly to improve the quality of your life. Weight management and pain medication such as anti inflammatory drugs are often prescribed with or without physiotherapy.

How can I prevent arthritis?

  • Maintaining your body fats as low as possible, the recommended body mass index (BMI) is between 19 and 29.

  • Have a regular exercise routine

What does the outcome of arthritis look like?

Over time, symptoms can improve when treated properly, they stay the same or gradually worsen especially if contributing factors are not taken care of. There are some types of arthritis that can be resolved or controlled with regular treatment options such as weight management and exercises or anti inflammatory drugs, without causing adverse effects. Advanced diseases however, may not respond to treatment and can lead to different forms of disability.

For further information, read our “beyond the basics articles” of this topic or chat with one of our doctors via AITOPYA app.

Thank you for reading and stay healthy!


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