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Causes and symptoms
arthritis[ahr-thri´tis] (pl. arthri´tides)
If untreated, and sometimes in spite of treatment, the joint pathology goes through four stages: (1) proliferative inflammation of the synovium with increased exudate, which eventually leads to thickening of the synovium; (2) formation of a layer of granulation tissue (pannus) that erodes and destroys the cartilage and eventually spreads to contiguous areas, causing destruction of the bone capsule and parts of the muscles that control the joint; (3) fibrous ankylosis resulting from invasion of the pannus by tough fibrous tissue; and (4) bony ankylosis as the fibrous tissue becomes calcified.
In addition to the joint changes there is atrophy of muscles, bones, and skin adjacent to the affected joint. The most characteristic lesions of rheumatoid arthritis are subcutaneous nodules, which may be present for weeks or months and are most commonly found over bony prominences, especially near the elbow.
Because rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease, there is involvement of connective tissues other than those in the musculoskeletal system. Degenerative lesions may be found in the collagen in the lungs, heart, blood vessels, and pleura.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis appear undernourished and chronically ill. Most are anemic because of the effect of the disease on blood-forming organs. The erythrocyte sedimentation rate is elevated and the WBC may be slightly elevated.
The purpose of rest is to allow the body's natural defenses against inflammation to work at optimal level. It is necessary, however, even in the acute phase to balance rest with prescribed exercises which take into account the severity of the case, the joints affected, and the patient's individual needs and tolerance.
Therapeutic exercise is of major importance in the physical therapy program established for the patient. It is necessary to enlist the patient's cooperation, and this can be done most effectively by explaining the purposes of the exercises and teaching ways to exercise that will not increase pain. In many instances proper exercise can actually diminish pain. The patient's tolerance for exercise must be carefully monitored. While it is expected that some discomfort may be present during exercise, there should not be persistent pain that continues for hours after the exercises have been done. If such pain and fatigue do occur, the exercise program should be reviewed and revised so that a good balance of rest and exercise is obtained. It should be remembered that overactivity can contribute to the inflammatory process.
Applications of heat or cold may be used in the management of rheumatoid arthritis. Heat applications improve circulation, promote relaxation, and relieve pain. When used in conjunction with exercise, heat can allow more freedom of joint movement. Various forms of heat therapy may be used, including dry heat, moist heat, diathermy, and ultrasound. For dry heat a therapeutic infrared heat lamp may be most convenient during home care. Hot water bottles or electric heating pads also may be used. For treatment of the hands, paraffin baths are effective. Wet heat can be applied by hot tub baths with the water temperature not exceeding 39°C (102°F) or by means of a towel dipped in hot water, wrung out, and applied to the joint. Whirlpool baths are effective, especially when prolonged treatment is indicated. Relief from pain and stiffness can be provided for some patients by applications of cold packs to the affected joints. This can be done by placing ice packs directly over the joint. When either heat or cold is used, care must be taken to protect the patient's skin. It should be remembered that rheumatoid arthritis affects the skin as well as other tissues.
Whenever it is necessary to handle the joints and limbs of a patient with rheumatoid arthritis, it is extremely important to move slowly and gently, avoiding sudden, jarring movements which stimulate muscle contraction and produce pain. The affected joints should be supported so that there is no excessive motion.
Aspirin was among the first drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and remains a low-cost treatment option. It is a potent antiinflammatory agent when given at dosages that achieve a serum level of 20–30 mg/100 ml. For those prone to stomach upset or other gastrointestinal side effects from aspirin, enteric-coated tablets or antacid mixtures of aspirin are available.
Other nonaspirin, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include the indole derivatives indomethacin, sulindac, and tolmetin and the phenylalkanoic acid derivatives fenoprofen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Nowadays NSAIDs are the most used group of medications for treatment of arthritis. They may provide more relief than aspirin for certain patients, but they also may have side effects related to the gastrointestinal and nervous systems. COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) inhibitors are the latest class of NSAIDs. They have fewer gastrointestinal side effects than other NSAIDs.
Cytotoxic agents may also be used; these drugs act as immunosuppressants and block the inflammatory process of the disease. methotrexate is the most common of these. The dosage for the management of rheumatoid arthritis is much lower than the dosages for malignancies; thus the associated side effects are fewer. gold compounds or penicillamine may be prescribed for selected patients who cannot tolerate or are not responding well to more conservative methods of treatment.
The corticosteroids may be used in treating rheumatoid arthritis, but they are not a substitute for other forms of treatment. In some cases these drugs produce side effects that are more difficult to treat than arthritis. They also may worsen certain features of the disease rather than relieve them. Drugs included in this group are cortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone.
Another group of medications that reduce inflammation are the biological response modifiers. Members of this group used to treat arthritis include etanercept and infliximab.
One surgical procedure employed is synovectomy (excision of the synovial membrane of a joint). The goal of this treatment is to interrupt the destructive inflammatory processes that eventually lead to ankylosis and invasion of surrounding cartilage and bone tissues.
Surgical repair of a hip joint (arthroplasty) may be performed when there is extensive damage and ambulation is not possible. The purpose of this procedure is to restore, improve, or maintain joint function. In cases in which it is not possible to restore the damaged hip joint there is a surgical procedure in which the diseased joint is completely replaced with a total hip prosthesis. The procedure is called a total hip replacement. A similar procedure involving total replacement of the knee can be done when there is extensive damage to the knee joint.
Braces, casts, or splints are sometimes used to immobilize the affected part so that it can rest during an active stage of the disease. Devices that immobilize the affected joint also may allow for motion of adjacent muscle, thereby improving muscle strength and permitting more independence on the part of the patient. Braces also may be used to prevent deformities by maintaining good position of the joints.
Home care is an essential part of the management of arthritis. To help in education of the public The Arthritis Foundation provides a number of pamphlets and other educational materials, supports a broad program of research and education, and helps finance improvement of local facilities for treatment of arthritis. The address of the foundation is The Arthritis Foundation, 1330 W. Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30309, telephone 404-872-7100.
See also: arthritis mutilans.
psoriatic arthritisRheumatology Joint inflammation associated with psoriasis, which is generally mild and involves few joints; in some Pts, the arthropathy is severe and affects the fingers and the vertebral column, where it mimicks ankylosing spondylitis. See Psoriasis.
pso·ri·at·ic ar·thri·tis(sōr'ē-at'ik ahr-thrī'tis)
Synonym(s): arthropathia psoriatica.
Patient discussion about psoriatic arthritis
Q. What is the cure for psoriatic arthritis? I know someone with psoriatic arthritis. What is the cure? Please don't waste my time with anecdotal evidence from anonymous people who drink expensive imported juice and claim to be healed. What treatments and cures are available? What science is behind the remedies?
If however, it is Psoriatic Arthritis, then I would highly recommend either a Rheumatologist, or a Homeopath/Naturopath. Personally, I prefer the Homeopathic approach. There are no man-made chemicals involved, which our bodies are not designed to assimilate. Introducing an artificial chemical to the human body often times creates an alternate imbalance somewhere else, with its own set of problems.
Q. How can I know if my arthritis will evolve to psoriatic arthritis? My young uncle (34 years old) had arthritis for several years. In the past 2 months he started to suffer from a psoriatic-like rash. The doctor said that this can happen but usually the psoriasis is before the arthritis. How can I know if my arthritis will evolve to psoriatic arthritis?
On the other hand here is a good way to take care of psoriasis