When joints are painful, swollen, and stiff, inflammation is typically to blame, a condition known as arthritis. The prefix arth- is derived from the Greek word arthros, which means joint, and the suffix -itis means inflammation.
Arthritis, like any other inflammation, is a body’s defense response. It can be directed against pathogens—this is the case with Lyme arthritis or bacterial arthritis , for example . But there are also other reasons for which a joint can become inflamed.
Arthritis urica is caused by gout , i.e., by deposits of uric acid in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis or so-called psoriatic arthritis (arthritis psoriatica) are autoimmune diseases, which means that the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissue.
Arthritis is not a disease in and of itself, but rather a symptom that can occur in many different diseases. How it gets worse, which joints get inflamed, and what makes the painful swelling go away depend on what caused it in the first place.
Arthritis (joint inflammation): symptoms and course
Arthritis manifests itself in that joints
- hurt ,
- are swollen , stiff, and possibly red and
- feel warm.
Morning stiffness is a common sign of chronic joint inflammation. When you wake up, your joints are especially stiff, and they don’t loosen up until several hours later.
Course depends on the disease
Pathogen-induced acute joint inflammation, such as Lyme arthritis or bacterial arthritis, typically resolves completely upon successful treatment. Chronic inflammation of the joints, such as rheumatism or gout, progresses in phases.
Consequences of chronic joint inflammation
In most instances, chronic joint inflammation can be effectively managed with medication, dietary modifications, and other measures.
Permanent joint damage can occur if treatment is initiated too late or if flare-ups are not effectively managed. This can show up in a number of ways, such as a body part getting stiff and staying in an awkward position, which makes it very hard to move.
Joint inflammation can impair growth in children and adolescents. The likelihood of growth disorders increases the earlier a child becomes ill and the longer the inflammation is left untreated.
Arthritis (joint inflammation): causes
- Autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatism and psoriatic arthritis )
- Metabolic diseases such as gout (arthritis urica)
- Joint wear (activated arthrosis ) Arthrosis (joint wear)
Arthritis (joint inflammation): Diagnosis
The typical symptoms of arthritis allow the physician to diagnose arthritis. Inflammation is present if the patient complains of painful swelling in one or more joints that are also stiff, reddened, or overheated. To determine the cause, however, the physician must conduct a series of tests. The exception is psoriatic arthritis, which is inflammation of the joints as a result of psoriasis; the doctor can identify this condition based on the characteristic skin changes.
In the first step, the doctor typically draws blood from the patient to look for signs of infection and various inflammation values, as well as to determine the uric acid level. On the basis of the results, the physician can typically determine whether the joint inflammation was caused by rheumatic disease or an acute infection. If the level of uric acid is very high, this is a sign of arthritis urica, or arthritis caused by gout.
Arthritis (joint inflammation): treatment
Treatment depends on the condition that caused the joint inflammation. Basically, the following measures can be considered for arthritis:
- Immobilization, cooling and elevation of the joints
- Painkillers (NSAIDs)
- anti-inflammatory drugs such as glucocorticoids (cortisone)
- Antibiotics for acute infections
- special rheumatism medication (so-called basic therapeutics ) for rheumatoid arthritis
- Immunosuppressants (drugs that suppress the body’s defenses )
- Operations (in severe cases)
- Physiotherapy , physical therapy and ergotherapy , for example in the case of chronic joint inflammation to prevent joint stiffness