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  • What is arthritis?

    Arthritis refers to the inflammation of the joints, which often comes with pain and swelling in the joints. It can occur in both small joints (eg. fingers) and large joints (eg. hip or knee). The joints can become stiff or deformed, resulting in disability or decreased mobility.

    There are 2 types of arthritis:

    • Osteoarthritis – 'wear-and-tear' in joints, which is the most common form of arthritis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis or gout, or inflammatory arthritis – chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints, blood vessels and organs
    • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease caused by overuse of the affected joint(s). Although usually a disease of ageing, young people can also have osteoarthritis from past sports injuries.
    • In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the body instead of protecting it, causing the swelling of the joints.
  • Osteoarthritis worsens as the day progresses. By evening, the person is likely to feel a dull ache in the affected joint.

    Other symptoms of arthritis include:

    • A sensation of grating or grinding in the affected joint caused by rubbing of the damaged cartilage surface (called crepitation)
    • Changes in surrounding joints
    • Cysts (lumps) in the hand that may cause ridging or dents in the nail plate of the affected finger
    • Pain
    • Stiffness of the affected joints
    • Swelling in the affected joints
    • Warmth – The joint may feel warm to the touch
  • Treatment includes:

    • Exercise – To maintain the strength of the muscles and ligaments to stabilise the joints
    • Medicines –
      1. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis
      2. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness
      3. Steroids may be injected directly into a joint to ease pain and swelling
    • Physiotherapy – Exercises to stabilise the joint
    • Surgery – To correct joint deformity or to replace a badly damaged joint
  • Rheumatoid arthritis can affect many organs in the body. Therefore, treatment is important to prevent anaemia (low levels of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood), fibrosis (thickening and scarring) of the lung(s), risk of heart attacks and strokes, and some cancers.

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