By: Mahdi Khanafer, Your Neighbourhood Pharmacist

Statistics state that 1 in 5 adults suffer from some type of arthritis. Arthritis, which means joint inflammation, is the pain, stiffness and swelling of one or more of your joints.

There are many types of arthritis but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease, involves the breakdown of cartilage. Generally appearing as you age or perhaps from injury, osteoarthritis occurs mostly in the hands, hips, knees and spine.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the joints (mostly the hands, wrists and knees) and making the lining of the joint swell. This inflammation may cause damage to the bones and cartilage. In very severe cases, skin, eyes and nerves may also be affected.

Risk factors that contribute to arthritis:

  • Age – over time, joints wear down.
  • Sex – more common in women.
  • Genes – some types of arthritis (e.g., rheumatoid) run in families
  • Excess weight – increases wear and tear on weight-bearing joints
  • Injuries – causes damage to the joint leading to the development of arthritis
  • Infection – bacteria, viruses and fungi can trigger joint inflammation
  • Work – repetitive movements or heavy lifting can cause stress or injury to the joints

The type and severity of symptoms varies, depending on the person and the form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis mainly causes pain, swelling and stiffness of joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes not only pain, swelling and stiffness, but tenderness, redness, warmth and joint deformity.

Treatment for arthritis includes rest, occupational or physical therapy, hot or cold compresses, joint protection, exercise, medication and possibly surgery. Cognitive behavioural therapy and acupuncture may help to alleviate pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Things you can do to help control arthritis:

  • Educate yourself
  • Don’t delay treatment
  • Get active
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Use joint-protecting devices and techniques at work