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Arthritis

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition in which the linings of the joints become inflamed in one or more areas of the body. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis which fall into five main groups: inflammatory arthritis, degenerative or mechanical arthritis, soft tissue musculoskeletal pain, back pain and connective tissue disease (CTD). Each type of arthritis has different causes and treatment methods.

One form of arthritis is known as Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) although primarily a joint disease occasionally affects other parts of the body — including the eyes. About 15 percent of people with RA develop a complication that causes dry mouth, dry eyes, dry skin, and additional symptoms that further aggravate their arthritis called Sjögren’s syndrome (SS), also known as dry eye syndrome. Sjögren’s syndrome affects the salivary and lacrimal glands, which supply moisture to the eyes and mouth. The eyes feel gritty especially in cold windy conditions. Paradoxically, they may water.

The cornea, the clear central portion of the front of the eye and the white of the eye (the sclera) may also be affected by the inflammatory process. When the inflammation affects the inside of the eye, the the iris (the coloured part of the eye) and the choroid (the layer of tissue that supports the retina), a condition called Iridocyclitis can occur with potentially serious consequences including cataracts, glaucoma and scarring.

Inflammed Eye

Psoriatic arthritis is known to be associated with inflammatory eye disease in much the same way as rheumatoid arthritis, as is ankylosing spondylitis which primarily affects the spine with one third to 40% of people experiencing inflammation of the eye.

All of the above conditions are autoimmune in nature, where the immune system of the body perversely attacks its own self. As with Multiple Sclerosis a plausible explanation for the failure in the immune system may be as a result of exposure to a foreign animal protein that closely resembles an individual’s own tissue protein such that the immune system does not recognise itself – for example, in the case of Sjögren’s syndrome, it attacks the linings of joints and the ocular tissues.

Who it Affects

Arthritis is a common, worldwide problem which can affect you regardless of your age, sex or race. It can take many forms, the most common being age-related, as part of the process of wear and tear of the joints.

Around 10 million people will seek help each year with arthritis or related conditions. Of these, it’s estimated that around 8 million will have osteoarthritis, and 400,000 will have rheumatoid arthritis. About 15,000 children and adolescents will suffer from Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Any child with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis should have regular eye examinations even when there is no obvious eye involvement.

It’s interesting to note that scientists have discovered genetic markers that increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis tenfold.

Arthritis Symptoms

As there are many types, there’s also a wide range of symptoms. With inflammatory arthritis you are likely to see swelling in your joints and have a degree of pain (which can’t simply be explained by physical activity). In some cases dry mouth, dry eyes, dry skin can occur. Other common symptoms include a general feeling of being unwell, early morning joint stiffness, tiredness, weight loss as well as mild fevers and skin rashes (Still’s disease).

Tests

There are a variety of tests to confirm a diagnosis of arthritis including blood tests, x-rays, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, a computerised tomography (CT) scan, a biopsy – where a small amount of tissue is removed and analysed or a urine test.

CT Scan

Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis treatments and therapies vary. Drugs may be used to treat symptoms (e.g. pain and stiffness) including painkillers (analgesics) such as paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroid tablets to reduce inflammation.
Physical therapies such as hydrotherapy and physiotherapy may also be employed and surgery in severe cases which don’t respond to drugs.

Arthritis Prevention

Once again it is probable that a plant based diet will provide the antioxidants that are able to neutralise the free radicles which are responsible for the inflammation caused by the autoimmune response. Find out more by signing up for my eBook.

Further Information

  1. Arthritis: http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/arthritis.aspx
  2. 6 Ways Arthritis Can Affect Your Eyes: http://www.arthritistoday.org/about-arthritis/arthritis-and-your-health/arthritis-and-your-eyes/eye-arthritis.php

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