Arthritis is a painful affliction of the musculoskeletal system, particularly the joints. It is alarmingly causing disability among people over fifty-five years of age. However, even children can develop arthritis; this is called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). There are actually over a hundred type of arthritis; osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common and it usually develops among the elderly.
While arthritis is an age-old disease and much of it remains a medical puzzle to this day, it is still pivotal to understand the causes of arthritis to manage its pain better, to prevent the deformation of joints, and to control arthritic symptoms.
The human joints are the parts of the musculoskeletal system that is affected by this medical condition. This is the point where one bone articulates with another bone as they are held together and made movable by ligaments. To prevent rubbing against each other during movements, cartilages shield the ends of the bones. The entire joint is encapsulated; the space within the two connected bones – the joint cavity – is filled with synovial fluid that sustains the nutrition and health of the cells in the joint.
Knowing the anatomy and physiology of the joints, you can understand the many possibilities why these joints become dysfunctional. For instance, osteoarthritis is caused by the ‘wear and tear’ of the cartilages in the bones in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can develop when the immune
system lets an inflammation to develop in the joint. Gout forms when crystals accumulate in the joints. There are other possibilities such as psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, Paget’s disease, scleroderma, septic arthritis, and so many more. Autoimmunity or your body attacking itself can also trigger lupus arthritis. It can also be a combination of many factors.
Is cracking joints among the causes of arthritis? You must have done it yourself on your joints. This manipulation of the joints produces a ‘popping’ sound deliberately. It can be done on any joint, but are usually done on fingers. There are no evidences to prove that crackling joints can cause arthritis, but it can reduce the strength of, say the grip using your often-cracked finger
Dr. Donald Unger, a Nobel Prize awardee in medicine, attests to the fact that he has been cracking his joints on his left hand for 60 years. To date, neither hand is showing symptoms of arthritis.
It is now recognized that there are over a hundred types of arthritis. Here are the most common types and causes of arthritis:
• When the cartilage loses its elasticity due to wear and tear or overuse, it can lead to osteoarthritis. As the cartilage becomes damaged, the tendons and ligaments are stretched triggering pain when bones rub against each other.
• Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an inflammatory or swelling. During inflammation, the synovial membrane becomes ‘infected’ leading to swelling and pain. Without a proper treatment, this inflammation can result to joint deformity. The incidence is higher among women aged 40 to 60.
• Infectious arthritis or septic arthritis is also an infection in the synovial fluid and tissues of the joint caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses emanating from the blood. People who have arthritis are more prone to this condition when sepsis invades the bloodstream.
• Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is the kind that afflicts kids, 18 years old and younger. It can be any type arthritis; the common denominator is it affects a young individual. It can be Pauciarticular JRA, which is the most common and mildest type of JRA in which the child feels pain in up to 4 joints. Polyarticular JRA is more severe and affects more joints. Systemic JRA is
rare and the most serious as it affects various organs.
There are many types and causes of arthritis. Do not ignore the signs and symptoms especially among young kids. Seek help; early diagnosis is always preferable.