There is no one cause of arthritis, and the cause of some of the most common types, like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, is unknown.
Overweight and obesity increase the risk of developing arthritis. Therefore, weight loss is very helpful in its control. Active regular exercise has two major benefits related to arthritis:
- It helps to prevent and control overweight and obesity.
- It keeps the joints more flexible or mobile. Our joints are like the parts of a machine, which our bodies are. If we don’t regularly move all the parts that were made to be moved, they won’t move as well, and possibly, not at all. More information about several common types of arthritis can be found on our web site in the section on “Our Major Killers and Disablers”.
The Most Common Types of Arthritis
Gout – A very painful form of arthritis which affects more men than women. It is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body because the body either does not normally break down purine, a protein associated with an increased level of uric acid in the body, or the kidney don’t get rid of it properly. Gout is characterized by repeated attacks of severe arthritis, most often involving the big toe. Other joints, however, can also be involved. The painful sudden attacks are caused by deposits of sodium urate, a salt from uric acid, in the connective tissue and joints. Gout can generally be controlled with medication plus dietary control. Dietary control involves avoiding or greatly limiting high purine foods such as organ meats (such as liver, kidney and brains), red meats (which are high in protein), and alcohol intake.
Other high purine foods, which should be avoided or limited in people with gout include:
Osteoarthritis -This degenerative disease develops when cartilage, which cushions the insides of the joints, begins to break down. It is the most common type of arthritis, among many types. Although evidence of the disease usually appears in people in their forties or fifties, experts believe that it begins during the twenties and thirties. Unlike the situation with rheumatoid arthritis (see description below), there is little or no inflammation and it does not affect the whole body. Because the breakdown or degeneration in the joint has already occurred when the diagnosis is made, the primary focus of treatment is pain relief and trying to prevent further damage.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – This is a systemic disease, which means that it affects the whole body. It causes inflammation, or pain, redness, swelling, and warmth, of the synovium, a membrane which lines and lubricates the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other parts of the body, such as the muscles, skin, eyes, heart and lungs. This condition is also an autoimmune disease, which means an individual’s immune system, or defense system, does damage to his/her own cells or tissues. The focus of treatment, which must be determined on an individual basis, is generally on reducing joint pain, swelling and stiffness, and maintaining as much function as possible.
For additional information on arthritis you can contact the Arthritis Foundation, Tel. (404) 872-7100. Their website can also be visited directly from our Resource Directory.