How to care for someone suffering from arthritis & its symptoms?

Arthritis can have mild symptoms or be severely debilitating based on its type and severity. It may prevent an individual from performing daily activities. If your loved one has arthritis, there are certain ways in which you can help them. 

Letโ€™s learn more about arthritis and tips on helping a loved one with arthritis.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis can be defined as an inflammation of the joints that can affect one or multiple body joints. Joints are where two bones meet, for instance, your knee or elbow. There are various types of arthritis with different causes and treatments. Pain and swelling in the joints are common in all kinds of arthritis. Some types of arthritis may affect other body organs, such as skin or eyes. 

What does arthritis look like? Arthritis Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of arthritis develop over time; however, they may appear suddenly in some cases. Arthritis is prevalent in people who are obese, and its incidence increases with age. It is best to understand the type of arthritis they suffer from and its common symptoms.

The common types of arthritis include: 

  • Osteoarthritis: It is the most common type of arthritis that affects the protective tissues at the ends of the bones
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: It occurs when the bodyโ€™s own immune system mistakenly attacks its tissue, including joints
  • Gout: It is a painful type of arthritis that happens when uric acid levels in the body increase more than normal
  • Juvenile arthritis: It is a type of arthritis that occurs in children
  • Psoriatic arthritis: It is a type of arthritis that affects people with psoriasis 
  • Infectious arthritis: It is a type of arthritis that spreads from infection from another part of the body to the joint

Arthritis causes and symptoms

Main Arthritis causes

  • Obesity 
  • Autoimmune disorders 
  • Family history 
  • Wear and tear of a joint from overuse 
  • Age 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Injuries 
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Main Arthritis Symptoms

Pain and swelling in joints are the most common symptoms of any arthritis. Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include: 

  • Muscle weakness around the joint 
  • Bony growths in the fingers 
  • Limited range of motion that sometimes goes away after movement 
  • Scraping feeling in the knees 
  • Instability of the joint 
  • Popping with bending 

Other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Morning stiffness 
  • Onset in small joints such as feet and hands 
  • Inflammation of the mouth and eyes 
  • Inflammation of heart muscle and blood vessels 
  • Reduced red blood count 
  • Multiple affected joints 
  • Fever

How can you help treat Arthritis? Is there a cure?

In addition to self-management (mentioned below), the below-mentioned steps can be followed to help manage arthritis.

You can take some actions at home, such as:

  • Attending appointments with them
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle with them
  • Stop smoking
  • Cutting down on alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods
  • Having a balanced diet including foods rich in zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K
  • Losing weight
  • Helping them to be organized by keeping track of their symptoms, pain levels, medications, and possible side effects of the medications 
  • Manage their pain and fatigue with adequate rest 
  • Improving their sleep as poor sleep can aggravate pain and fatigue in arthritis
  • Do not allow them to sit in one position for long periods

Arthritis Diagnosis, Treatment, and Medication

Arthritis Diagnosis: 

Physicians will examine the person by physical examination to check for swelling, warmth, and redness. They will also check the range of motion of your joints. 

  • Laboratory test: Analysis of different types of body fluids can help diagnose the type of arthritis. Commonly analyzed fluids include joint fluid, blood, and urine. 
  • Imaging: Various types of tests can help to identify the problems within the joint that may be causing the symptoms, which include: 
  • X-rays: They can help detect cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs. However, arthritic changes are not visible in the x-rays, but they can be used to track the progression of the disease 
  • CT-scan: CT-scan is an advanced version of x-rays that takes many different images from different angles and combines the information to get a cross-sectional view of the internal structures. CT scan helps to visualize both bone and the adjacent soft tissues 
  • MRI scan: MRI scan uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field. It produces highly detailed cross-sectional images of the tissues (tendons, ligaments, and cartilage)
  • Ultrasound: USG uses high-frequency sound waves to take images of soft tissues, cartilage, and fluid-containing structures near the joints. 
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Arthritis Treatment

The aim of treatment in arthritis is to reduce joint pain, damage and improve or maintain function and quality of life. The physician may prescribe a combination of treatment methods to get maximum benefits.

Medications and supplements to treat arthritis

Various medications and supplements are used to treat arthritis. They include: 

  • Analgesics: Analgesics are effective to reduce pain; however, they do not help to reduce inflammation or progression of the disease
  • Steroids: Steroids help reduce inflammation, joint damage, and pain. They are be used cautiously and for shorter periods
  • Immunosuppressants: These agents are prescribed for moderate to severe inflammatory arthritis. 
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs: These agents slow the progression of the disease and prevent the other tissues from permanent damage
  • NSAIDs: These agents are used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain 
  • Counterirritants: Creams and ointments containing capsaicin or menthol are used for topical application on the affected joints. They block the transmission of pain signals from the joint

Various other treatments without medications

  • Weight loss: Extra weight adds extra pressure on the weight-bearing joints. Shedding extra weight may increase mobility and may decrease future joint injury
  • Exercise: Exercising daily helps to maintain mobility and flexibility in the joints. Swimming and water aerobics exercises help as the buoyancy of the water decreases stress on the joints
  • Surgery: When all the other treatment measures do not help, doctors may suggest surgery as an option to treat arthritis. Various surgeries such as 
  • Joint replacement: This procedure involves the removal of the damaged joint and replacing it with the artificial one. Hip and knee surgeries are most commonly done 
  • Joint repair: In some cases, the affected joint can be realigned or smoothed to decrease the pain and improve function
  • Joint fusion: This procedure is often used for smaller joints like fingers, wrist, or ankles. In this procedure, the ends of the bones are fused, which removes the inflamed are
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Fish oil and turmeric for arthritis

Supplements such as fish oil and turmeric may reduce the inflammation of arthritis. However, there is a lack of clinical evidence that they are beneficial. One should always consult the doctor before taking any supplements to prevent interactions with other medications

  • Alternative medicine: Many times, some people prefer alternative remedies for treating arthritis. These include:
  • Fish oil 
  • Acupuncture
  • Glucosamine 
  • Massage 
  • Yoga 
  • Chondroitin

The alternative medicines have little evidence regarding their effectiveness in arthritis. 

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy helps in strengthening muscles around the affected joint. Exercises can help to improve the range of motion. The physical therapist will recommend a plan that includes daily movements and exercises that can be done at home. These movements and exercise help in building strength, balance, the flexibility of the joints and muscles
  • Heat and cold compress: Heat and cold compress may help in reducing the arthritis pain 
  • Nutrient-rich diet: Consuming a balanced diet that gives your body all the nutrients it needs to function appropriately helps in managing the symptoms of arthritis. You should consume the following food items: 
  • Fresh vegetables 
  • Fresh fruits 
  • Lean proteins 
  • Nuts 
  • Whole grains 
  • Legumes 
  • Fish

Arthritis foods to avoid

  • Processed meat
  • Fruit drinks with sugar 
  • Energy drinks and sodas 
  • Cakes, cookies, and donuts 
  • Fried packaged foods 
  • Dairy products
  • Pizzaโ€™s 
  • Chips and fries 
  • Self-management: Self-management of the disease is also vital, which includes: 
  • Protecting joints from the stress 
  • Reducing weight if you are obese 
  • Staying physically active 
  • Regular follow-ups with the doctor 
  • Taking medications and supplements on time 
  • Eating healthy diet
  • Do not stay in one position for a more extended period 

Other precautions

  • Always follow up with the doctors on a timely basis
  • Stay physically active 
  • Be organized 
  • Avoid unnecessary stress 
  • Manage pain and fatigue and take adequate rest 
  • Consume medications on a timely basis 
  • Always consult a doctor before consuming other medications or supplements 


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