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Have you been feeling as if your joints have been swelling up lately? Perhaps in the mornings, hindering you from getting out of bed and starting your daily routine? Is there an itchy feeling that surrounds your joints? If so, you may be having problems with arthritis. 

You may now be one of the millions, or 54 million adults in the U.S to be exact, who have been diagnosed with arthritis. This is a very unfortunate condition, but it does not mean that you should lose all your hope! 

As you may know, getting informed is the first step towards getting better. So, here is the basic information about arthritis.

What is arthritis?

When it comes to arthritis, it is a bit more complicated than you may imagine. Arthritis is not a term that refers to one single disease, as you are probably guessing. Arthritis is a term that stands for a group of over 100 conditions. The most common types of arthritis are perhaps Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis, and Osteoarthritis. Arthritis affects both men and women, even children and babies. There is even information about arthritis affecting cats and dogs. Most commonly, it is people with other chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension that are being diagnosed with arthritis.

What causes arthritis?

One very unfortunate fact to take in consideration is the fact that currently no person in the world can define the exact cause of arthritis. There are certain risk factors that you need to keep in mind such as obesity, family history of arthritis and joint injuries. Age plays a factor as older people are more commonly associated with arthritis. Gender also has a role because women are more commonly diagnosed with Arthritis when compared with men.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

No matter of which arthritis type you have, there are certain main symptoms that occur in every one of them. These main symptoms include joint pain, swelling, redness, reduction of your range of motion, stiffness and joint tenderness in the affected joint or joints. 

These symptoms usually occur after a long period of inactivity, so you probably will feel them in the morning when they are at their peak. Then, throughout the day you probably will continue to feel them but not with the same intensity. 

These symptoms progressively decrease your range of motion, starting with the affected joint or joints. But, if left untreated, the arthritis symptoms will soon enough lead to disability. This is why getting informed about the potential symptoms and risk factors plays a huge role when dealing with arthritis. If you have numerous risk factors, then it is for the best to stay on a look-out for any potential symptoms and report them to the doctor’s office right away.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

The minute that you notice that something is wrong with your joints, the best idea is to call your doctor’s office. The first thing that any doctor will do is perform a quick physical exam to check the condition of your joints. 

The opinion of a rheumatologist will probably be required. An X-ray, MRI scan and CT scan will be done as well to check the stage of your arthritis from the present joint changes that have been made as a result. 

A blood test will also be done to check if there is a present of anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide), RF (rheumatoid factor) and ANA (antinuclear antibodies) which can determine the type of arthritis that you are dealing with. A proper diagnosis is a key towards a successful treatment plan.

Is there a cure?

Another very unfortunate fact when it comes to arthritis is the fact that currently, there is still no found cure for arthritis. However, there are a number of successful treatment options that you can discuss with your doctor to treat your condition. 

Of course, none of these will cure your arthritis symptoms forever, but they at least will offer you a chance to live your life and deal with only a mild form of these symptoms. This will be more bearable than having to deal with these symptoms all the time. Some types of arthritis cause certain flare-ups and remissions to occur. 

A flare-up is a term used to describe the attack of symptoms. Certain types of arthritis come with flare-ups that occur once or twice a year. A period of remission is when you are free of symptoms. 

When talking with your doctor about the treatment options, you can choose from physical therapy, occupational therapy, kinesiotherapy and massage. Medications such as non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids are the most commonly used medications for arthritis. 

All arthritis therapies aim to relieve the present symptoms, increase the range of motion in the affected joint or joints and increase the quality of your life. Arthritis may be incurable for now, but it does not mean there is nothing that you can do to improve your condition.

Arthritis is no simple condition to live with. Many things about arthritis make living with it difficult. Once you get diagnosed with arthritis, it is time to change your daily routine, your habits and your lifestyle in order to continue with a relatively normal life. 

Until then, you can work toward avoiding arthritis by getting informed! Learn more about the potential risk factors, causes, symptoms, diagnostic techniques and treatments. Even if you have been diagnosed with arthritis, continue learning so that you can prepare some potential questions for your doctor. 
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