Questions and Facts about Arthritis

by Dr. Harbeer Ahedi

What is Arthritis ?

A Disease affecting the joints and soft tissues of the body.

What are the types of Arthritis ?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is the form in which most of the joints are affected with higher possibility of deformation. Ankloysis Spondylitis affects the spine. SLE is a multiple systemic type affecting the lungs, heart, kidneys, etc. Gouty Arthritis is seen in patients suffering from Gout, a metabolic disease. The Arthritis affecting the muscles is called Soft Tissue Rheumatism (STR). Degeneration of joints related to age is called Osteoarthritis. Not all forms of Arthritis are crippling or deforming.

What are the causes of Arthritis ?

In Arthritis, there may be more than one causative factor.
In Rheumatoid Arthritis in which multiple joints pain, swelling and deformities are involved the exact causes are not known, but heredity and infections play a very important role.
In Degenerative Arthritis, i.e. Osteoarthritis, age, body weight and injury could be the causative factors.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory disease of the spine seen in many patients and presents itself with low back pain. The cause could be trauma, obesity and poor posture.
Soft Tissue Rheumatism is often related with mental stress and occupation.
Gouty Arthritis is caused due to excess deposition of uric acid in the joints.

Where do I go when I have joint pains ?

Mostly when one suffers from joint pains, he consults an Orthopaedic doctor or his family doctor. The family doctor after recognizing the disease should begin appropriate therapy. The family doctor can always take help from a specialist (Rheumatologist) for long term management of disease.

Is Arthritis curable ?

Any type of arthritis can be treated with modern medicines. Some like Rheumatic Fever and Infective Arthritis are curable, and early diagnosis in such cases is helpful in treatment.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis can be controlled with the help of the medicine to such an extent that it does not affect one's lifestyle. Many forms of soft tissue Rheumatism are definitely curable when one finds their causative factors.

Is blood test always required ?

Arthritis is a long-term disease. So, with regular medication it is required that your blood tests be done, because they help the doctor to monitor the disease.

Do I have to take medicines regularly or I can stop them without consulting my doctor ?

Arthritis like Diabetes and Hypertension is a long-term disease, so it is of utmost importance that the patient takes his medication regularly as it helps in controlling the disease. Not all types of Arthritis require long term medication. It is not recommended that you stop the medicines without consulting your doctors, because he will be the one who will decide when and how to reduce or stop the medicines.

Can patients suffering with Arthritis have children ? Will the children suffer too ?

Patients suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gout, AS, SLE, etc, in whom the disease has flared up, pregnancy could cause complications. The patients, after consulting their doctor and when the Arthritis is under control, could try for a child, but whether the child too will suffer from the same disease cannot be predicted.

Do diet, being overweight and weather affect my Arthritis ?

There are many misconceptions on this issue as it is said that sour and cold foods, curds, etc. have an effect on Arthritis. In some cases, effect of diet may be directly linked with Arthritis, but there is no scientific reason to prove it. In Gout, the patient is asked to avoid alcohol, non-vegetarian diet in order to control the uric acid level in blood.
Being overweight affects the joints because the joints that are already painful and swollen have to bear more weight, which in turn increases the pain and the patient is unable to walk for a long period.
A change in the weather could aggravate pain in Arthritis, especially in the monsoon, but again may vary with patients.

Can a patient suffering from Arthritis lead a normal life ?

Once Arthritis steps into your life, not everything is the same. Most of the patients are psychologically depressed because of the disease and think that there is nothing in life to live for. But that is not true. Accepting the truth and fighting the disease with the backing of your family will help the patient to rise again.
With regular intake of medicines and routine visits to the doctor, one can lead an independent and care-free life.

Will exercise help in Arthritis ?

Yes. Physiotherapy, yoga, heat therapy and traction can help in Arthritis, as these remedies tend to increase the tone of the muscles and good movement of the joints. But when the joints are swollen, exercise is not recommended, as it will increase the pain.
Maintenance of proper body weight and regular exercise helps in controlling the disease progress to some extent.

What should be done to control Arthritis ?

There are many things that one can do to control Arthritis. Proper medication under supervision of a doctor is important, but helping the patient overcome both the mental and physical burden of the disease is more imperative. Surgery might be required to improve the function of the joints. Exercising regularly can control Arthritis.