Arthritis is the name for several conditions that inflame your joints, leading to pain and discomfort. Enough pain, in fact, that it is the most common cause of disability in the United States, and the prevalence is only increasing.
Over 52 million people have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or lupus.
With so many people dealing with arthritis, this inflammation of the joints seems inevitable, but is it? Is there anything you can do to avoid dealing with the pain and complications of arthritis? Let’s explore these questions by examining the causes of arthritis, how it affects your body, and what you can do to manage or prevent it.
Causes of arthritis
The stiffness, aching, swelling, and pain in your joints, tendons, and ligaments can be caused by a variety of factors, including injuries, abnormal metabolism, infections, immune system dysfunction, inherited genes, and aging.
Different types of arthritis have different risk factors that lead to this painful inflammation. Less common types of arthritis such as septic arthritis can also cause fever and intense joint pain, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can cause problems with your eyes (iritis, iridocyclitis, uveitis).
How arthritis affects your body
Inflammation is your body’s natural defensive response to bacteria, disease, and injuries. It’s part of how your body heals. The inflammation involved in arthritis, however, damages joints and leads to the characteristic pain, stiffness, and swelling common to this condition.
Degenerative arthritis damages the cartilage in your joints, which is designed to keep your joints gliding smoothly as your body moves. This is common in osteoarthritis, and leads to cartilage loss and damages the bone in your joints.
Arthritis prevention and management
There are changes you can make to keep from developing arthritis, including:
Eating a healthy diet
Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent rheumatoid arthritis. This includes foods like fish, nuts, seeds, plant oils, yogurt, milk, eggs, and supplements. Foods that can help prevent other types of arthritis include cherries, low-fat dairy, broccoli, green tea, citrus, and garlic.
Exercise and other physical activities are a commonly recommended way to help prevent arthritis. This can be walking, doing chores, playing outside, or maintaining a weight-bearing exercise regimen.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese can add pounds that cause more stress to your joints and bones, so staying at a healthy weight reduces the strain on your joints and keeps them healthy longer.
Controlling blood sugar
Diabetes can lead to inflammation which results in deteriorating cartilage, and high levels of blood sugar create stiffness in your joint tissue, increasing your chances of joint damage. Keeping your blood sugar under control can help reduce any damage to your joints.
Smoking does a lot of damage to your body, including an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, the breathing and circulatory problems associated with smoking can also lead to inactivity, which slows movement and lowers joint flexibility. Not smoking can reduce these and many other problems.
Not all forms of arthritis are preventable, but it’s possible to take steps to avoid it for extended periods of time and to strengthen your joints.
If you’re dealing with the effects of arthritis, make an appointment with the team at Southern Oregon Orthopedics today to get help. Call our office most convenient to you or schedule your visit online.