Arthritis is defined as pain, edema, warmth, redness and stiffness in the joint. It is also known as joint inflammation or rheumatism among the people. Rheumatism is not a single disease, it has dozens of different types. Arthritis / joint inflammation can develop due to infection and trauma, as well as rheumatic diseases.
Pain in the joints alone is not enough to say arthritis. Symptoms such as swelling (edema), limitation of movement, increased temperature, and redness in the joint should also be present. The most determinant of these is edema. If edema is not noticed externally, it can be detected by imaging methods such as ultrasonography or MRI.
What is a joint?
A joint is a structure in which two bones meet and connect to each other and move within certain limits. Wrist, finger joints, elbow, shoulder, knee, hip, ankle are the main joints that everyone knows. There are also many other less well-known joints, such as the facet joint, the sacroiliac joint , but can be affected by a variety of diseases and problems. The boundaries of most joints are formed by a strong connective tissue called the joint capsule. Capsule provides anatomical integrity. It contains a lubricating fluid called joint fluid (synovial fluid). In joint inflammation, the amount of this fluid generally increases and the ratio of the number of cells and other molecules in it changes.
There is a thin layer of cartilage on the sides of the bones facing the joint. This tissue prevents the bones from colliding directly with each other, allowing them to slide on each other without friction. Cartilage tissue can be damaged as a result of joint inflammation, rheumatism, trauma and calcification (osteoarthritis). If the cartilage tissue is damaged, complaints such as friction, grinding sensation, crackling, bulking, and snagging may occur during movement.
Bones are held together by strong bonds called ligaments . The anterior cruciate ligament in the knee joint is the most well-known ligament. Every joint has ligaments like this that give it strength.
Movement of bones is provided by muscles. Muscles are attached to the bone by extensions called tendons. Muscle tension pulls the bone through the tendon. The tension exerted by the muscles in the movable joints contributes greatly to the strength. For example, the contribution of the muscles is great in keeping the shoulder joint in place. Leg muscles are also very important for the knee joint. If the leg muscles are strengthened in knee calcification, the stability of the joint will increase and the pain may decrease. If the muscles are weak, most of the forces are on structures such as ligaments, cartilage, and capsules, and the risk of injury increases.
Types of Arthritis
Around 200 causes of arthritis or joint inflammation have been identified. The most common of these is osteoarthritis , also called calcification . It is a problem associated with age and wear. Other causes of arthritis are generally known as “inflammatory rheumatism”. rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitisThere are many rheumatic diseases such as psoriasis rheumatism, gout, calcium crystal diseases, lupus, palindromic rheumatism, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, familial Mediterranean fever, Behçet’s disease. There are certain joints that every rheumatism loves. For example, some hold the left and right joints together, while the other holds one side. One likes small joints, while the other likes large joints like knees and hips. While some rheumatisms cause serious damage, deformity and disability in the joint, other rheumatism does not cause much deformity. In some rheumatisms, in addition to joint involvement, internal organs such as kidneys, lungs and vessels may also be affected.
When to See a Doctor
Joint pain is a common problem. Almost everyone can complain of various pains at certain periods. Not every condition that is thought to be joint pain is actually caused by the joint. For example, most shoulder pain is caused by the muscle fibers and tendons around the joint. In which situations should complaints be taken seriously and suspected in terms of rheumatism?
One of the most important criteria is the continuity of complaints. Pain caused by exercise, exertion, and colds usually disappears in a few days. You can consult a doctor for pain that lasts longer than a few days and does not decrease.
Another important symptom is edema or swelling, as we mentioned at the beginning. Self-swelling of the joint without any injury, sprain, impact, or force should be investigated for rheumatism. If there are symptoms such as fever and fatigue, a doctor should be consulted without delay. Joint swelling can also develop due to a microbial infection (septic arthritis), which requires immediate treatment.
In addition, if joint complaints affect your daily life, you should definitely see a doctor. Unable to open jar lids due to wrist pain, difficulty in preparing food, inability to carry items can be given as examples of daily life being affected.
The fact that the complaints are more frequent after resting and in the morning, and that they decrease when they move a little and get warm, may indicate rheumatism.
If you suspect joint inflammation or rheumatism, you can be examined by a physical therapy and rehabilitation or rheumatology doctor.
Problems Confused with Arthritis
Fibromyalgia, which causes widespread muscle pain, is popularly known as muscle rheumatism or soft tissue rheumatism, but does not cause arthritis. Polymyalgia rheumatica , a type of rheumatism that causes muscle pain and stiffness, especially in the shoulders and hips in the elderly, does not cause arthritis either. An inflammation of tendons around the joints tendinitis is often mixed with arthritis. In tendonitis, the event is not in the joint; joint inflammation is not seen. Spine problems such as waist and neck hernia can cause pain reflected in joints such as shoulders and hips. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a problem in which the median nerve is compressed and damaged in the wrist, and it can cause hand pain and be confused with rheumatism.
How Is Arthritis Treated?
First of all, it is determined whether the event is really arthritis and which of the 200 diseases that can cause arthritis develop due to it. Various drug treatments are started according to the diagnosis. In inflammatory rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, it is very important to start drug therapy early and control the disease in order to prevent disability in the future. If edema is evident, cold application may be helpful. Pulling and draining the joint fluid with a needle both relieves the complaints and helps to clarify the diagnosis by analysis. If there is an infection, antibiotics are given. In rheumatism and osteoarthritis, cortisone injections can reduce inflammation.
In physical therapy, the application of exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint is recommended in terms of both reducing pain and preserving function.
Most importantly, people diagnosed with rheumatic disease should learn exactly what their disease is, and know what drugs they are using. It may be useful to create a file containing the order of appearance of the complaints, the examinations performed and the treatments given, because most rheumatic diseases do not disappear in a short time. Follow-up and treatment process is measured in years, sometimes it continues for a lifetime.