Struggling With Arthritis

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You may be one of the many lucky people whose arthritis is a minor inconvenience, or you may have a kind such as bursitis that can be completely healed and then is gone for good. But for some of us, especially those with rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory types such as lupus, arthritis is more serious.

Most of us are used to simple diseases or health problems. You get a cold; it goes away in a week or so. You have a headache; you take an aspirin. You have an infection; you take an antibiotic. You break a bone; you wear a cast and the bone heals.

But unfortunately, arthritis is not so simple. Rheumatoid arthritis, in particular, will wax and wane, it will get better and get worse, all at unpredictable times. Many medications won’t work instantly, and still others may not work for you at all or may have such uncomfortable side effects that you can’t use them. More recently turmeric for arthritis has got good results compared to some prescription drugs.

When you find out you have arthritis or a related disorder, you may feel that you’re falling apart or that grimmer developments are just around the corner. Many people who discover they have arthritis become depressed: they think they’re going to die or completely lose control of their lives.

It’s like being caught up, unarmed, in a war you didn’t know existed, with battles erupting off and on and no armistice in sight. But if you work with your doctor and muster all the patience you can, you’ll eventually find relief.

For many people, particularly the majority with osteoarthritis, the fear is greater than the problem itself. It may help to put your troubles in perspective: think about a Rolls-Royce, a finely crafted piece of machinery.

As a Rolls gets older, the shock absorbers may begin to squeak a bit after a certain number of miles and may need to be repaired or even replaced. But the car is still a Rolls-Royce, built to last. Similarly, your body is still a wonderful mechanism and will last with loving care it has just developed a few squeaks and rattles.

There are over 100 forms of arthritis. Doctors tell them apart by determining which joints or structures of the body are affected. In some types of arthritis, other parts of the body also come into play. Osteoarthritis, for example, damages only the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis, however, affects not only the joints but also other systems of the body (particularly the immune system). And at the extreme end of the arthritis spectrum, the disease called lupus affects multiple organs, with the joints happening to be one of them.

Of all the types of arthritis and related ailments, two affect us the most: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Many people confuse the two, possibly because our grandparents used to refer to their aches and pains as rheumatism, while often they actually had osteoarthritis. While osteoarthritis is far more common, rheumatoid arthritis is more difficult to treat and can have a far greater impact on your life, so it’s crucial to know the difference.

Some other types of arthritis affect the joint in similar ways. Many other arthritic conditions, however, affect the joint indirectly by damaging nearby body parts, such as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the joint, or by causing swelling of the bursae, fluid filled sacs that cushion the joint.

While some of these conditions aren’t technically arthritis because they don’t involve swelling of the joint itself, they’re often lumped together with it because they all affect the joint in one way or another.

The most common types of arthritis and related conditions, which are covered in this book, include lupus, gout, Lyme arthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, and giant cell arteritis. We’ll also discuss psoriatic arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, arthritis of inflammatory bowel disease, ankylosing spondylitis, and Reiter’s syndrome.