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Arthritis and Joints 1 of 2 : next >>

[Osteoarthritis | Rheumatoid arthritis | Worsening & remission]
[New arthritis treatment options | Standard treatment options]
[Use it or lose it | Avoiding fraud | Research]
[Common types of arthritis]

Arthritis may begin as a slight morning stiffness. For the lucky person with arthritis, that's as far as it goes. But for millions of others, arthritis can become a disabling, even crippling, disease. Roman Emperor Diocletian exempted citizens with severe arthritis from paying taxes, no doubt realizing that the disease itself can be taxing enough.

One in seven Americans--nearly 40 million--have some form of arthritis. That number will climb as the baby boomers age. By 2020, about 60 million Americans will have arthritis, according to The National Arthritis Data Workgroup of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Arthritis is physical, but also exacts a mental, emotional and economic toll.

"Chronic arthritis impacts a person's entire lifestyle--work, family and recreation," says Gail Wright, Ph.D., a rehabilitation psychologist at the University of Missouri, Columbia. To improve quality of life, doctors and health educators increasingly advise combining drug treatment with education, social support, and moderate forms of exercise.

Arthritis means joint inflammation. In a normal joint, where two bones meet, the ends are coated with cartilage, a smooth, slippery cushion that protects the bone and reduces friction during movement. A tough capsule lined with synovial membrane seals the joint and produces a lubricating fluid. Ligaments surround and support each joint, connecting the bones and preventing excessive movement. Muscles attach to bone by tendons on each side of a joint. Arthritis inflammation can affect any of these tissues.

Arthritis inflammation is a complex process that causes swelling, redness, warmth, and pain. Arthritis is the body's natural response to injury and plays an important role in healing and fighting infection. Joint injury can be caused by trauma or by the wear and tear of aging. But in many forms of arthritis, injury is caused by the uncontrolled inflammation of autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues. In severe arthritis cases, all joint tissues, even bone, can be damaged.

The general term arthritis includes over 100 kinds of rheumatic diseases, most of which last for life. Rheumatic arthritis diseases are those affecting joints, muscle, and connective tissue, which makes up or supports various structures of the body, including tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, and internal organs. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a wide variety of drugs to treat the many forms of arthritis.

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The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, affecting more than 16 million Americans. Osteoarthritis is common in people over 65, but may appear decades earlier. Osteoarthritis begins when cartilage breaks down, sometimes eroding entirely to leave a bone-on-bone joint in extreme cases. Any joint can be affected, but the feet, knees, hips, and fingers are most common. Osteoarthritis may appear in one or two joints and spread no further. Painful and knobby bone growths in the fingers are common, but usually not crippling. Osteoarthritis is often mild, but can be quite severe.

Joint with Osteoarthritis
In osteoarthritis, cartilage breaks down and the bones rub together. The joint then loses shape and alignment. Bone ends thicken, forming spurs (bony growths). Bits of cartilage or bone float in the joint space.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis
Second most common is rheumatoid arthritis, which affects 2.5 million Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis can strike at any age, but usually appears between ages 20 and 50. The hands are most commonly affected, but rheumatoid arthritis can affect most joints of the body. Inflammation begins in the synovial lining and can spread to the entire joint. Highly variable and difficult to control, rheumatoid arthritis can severely deform joints. Some people become bedridden. Others continue to run marathons.

An autoimmune disease affecting the whole body, rheumatoid arthritis can also cause weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle pain, and weight loss. Blood tests may reveal anemia and the presence of an antibody called rheumatoid factor (RF). However, some people with RF never develop rheumatoid arthritis, and some people with rheumatoid arthritis never have RF. In about one in six, rheumatoid arthritis becomes severe and can shorten life. Researchers hope to find ways to predict which patients should be treated more aggressively for rheumatoid arthritis.

Joint with Rheumatoid Arthritis
In rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation accompanies thickening of the synovial membrane or joint lining, causing the whole joint to look swollen due to swelling in the joint capsule. The inflamed joint lining enters and damages bone and cartilage, and inflammatory cells release an enzyme that gradually digests bone and cartilage. Space between joints diminishes, and the joint loses shape and alignment.

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Worsening and Remission
With so many kinds of arthritis, which can appear and progress unpredictably, diagnosis and treatment can be trying for both physician and patient. Diagnosis depends on integrating a host of factors, including the possibility that a person may have two forms of arthritis.

The normal ups and downs of chronic, painful disease further complicate matters. "Just about any painful condition will wax and wane on its own," says rheumatologist Dennis Boulware, M.D., University of Alabama, Birmingham.

A worsening or reappearance of arthritis is called a flare. Remissions bring welcome relief, but can also obscure whether symptoms decreased on their own or due to treatment.

New Arthritis Treatment Options
Since this article was written in 1997, several treatment options have become available. A news release regarding glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate dated March 29, 2000 from the National Institutes of Health - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases -- reports as follows. It reports that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate treat osteoarthritis. A systematic analysis of clinical trials on glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for treating osteoarthritis (OA) has shown that these compounds may have some effectiveness against the symptoms of this most common form of arthritis.

Researchers at the Oregon Health Sciences University report that MSM has been found to promote joint mobility and when combined with Glucosamine Sulfate, offers a powerful formula for joint health. Recent studies show that MSM offers a natural way to help promote joint comfort.1

Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO) seems to function in at least four different ways. One of the first observations noted when favorable Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO) results are seen is the lubricating quality of Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO). Decrease or loss of morning stiffness is commonly noted shortly after commencing Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO) treatment. Next, Cetyl Myristoleate functions as an anti-inflammatory. Lessening of swollen digits is often seen after the 4th or 5th week of Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO) treatment. Third, Cetyl Myristoleate CMO functions as an immunomodulator or immune system regulator. Cetyl Myristoleate’s ability to regulate or calm down hyper-immune responses is one of the most exciting qualities and shows that Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO) may be helpful in addressing the symptoms related to many autoimmune diseases. And finally, Cetyl Myristoleate functions as an analgesic or painkiller and CMO has been helpful for many sufferers of muscle tension headaches and fibromyalgia. 2

Calcium supplementation is a controversial treatment for arthritis. The theory is that the body protects itself from injury by causing arthritis to flare when there is a shortage of calcium. As bones become more brittle from lack of calcium, arthritis flares to slow down movement in order to keep a person from injuring themselves. If this theory is correct, then we will see a generation that has overdosed for 50 years of their lives on phosphoric acid (soda), that suffers from severe calcium deficiency and hence arthritis.3

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