Arthritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. Individuals diagnosed with arthritis usually experience some form of pain and swelling of the joints due to inflammation. The joints will become stiff or deformed, where mobility will be affected. Joint pain and stiffness typically worsen with age.

What are the types of arthritis?

There are two types of arthritis:

Osteoarthritis (OA)

  • The most common form of arthritis - a degenerative disease due to ‘wear-and-tear’ over time.
  • Occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the joints starts to wear out.
  • Most commonly affects joints in the hands, hips, knees, neck, and lower back.
  • Common among older people over 50 years old, however, younger people are also at risk of developing osteoarthritis caused by sports injuries.
  • Affects more women than men.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

  • An autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorder.
  • The immune system attacks healthy cells in the body by mistake, causing inflammation (painful swelling) of the affected parts of the body.
  • It can affect the joints and other parts such as blood vessels, eyes, mouth, heart, lungs, and skin.
  • Can occur at any age, but most commonly in middle age.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Individuals with arthritis usually will experience dull aches at affected joints. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness of affected joints
  • Swelling of affected joints
  • Warmth – the joints may be warm to touch
  • A sensation of grating or grinding of the affected joint caused by rubbing of the damaged cartilages surfaces (called crepitation)
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Changes in surrounding joints
  • Cysts in your hand that may cause ridging or dents in the nail plate of the affected finger

What are the risk factors of arthritis?

Some risk factors of arthritis are beyond your control. These factors are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Family history

Other risk factors of developing arthritis include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activities
  • Smoking
  • Past history of injuries, infection
  • Having a poor posture

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made based on various investigations. Your doctor will first evaluate your medical history and symptoms before conducting a physical examination.

  1. Lab tests: To determine the form of arthritis or rule out other conditions. These tests include blood test, urinalysis, joint fluid analysis.
  2. X-ray: These images can help detect cartilage loss, bone damage, bone spurs. It is also useful to monitor disease progression.
  3. Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves are used in ultrasound to help create images of cartilage, soft tissues, and other structures near the joints.
  4. Computerised Tomography (CT) scan: CT scan is useful to examine joints that are hard to evaluate using conventional X-ray.
  5. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan: MRI scans provide detailed cross-sectional images of soft tissues (cartilage, tendons, ligaments), bones, and joints.

How is arthritis treated?

Treatment depends on the type of arthritis. You may be treated with a combination of treatments:

  1. Medications

    • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): To reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness in osteoarthritis.
    • Steroids: Corticosteroid such as prednisone can reduce inflammation. Steroids can occasionally be injected directly into a joint to relieve pain and swelling.
    • Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): To slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and save affected joints and tissues from permanent damage.
  2. Physical therapy

    Physical therapy can help improve range of motion, strengthen muscles and ligaments to stabilise the joints.

  3. Surgery

    Your doctor may recommend surgery if your symptoms worsen or if other treatments have not improved your symptoms. Surgery is performed to correct joint deformity or to replace a badly damaged joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis may affect many of the organs in your body. Treatment is essential to prevent development of other conditions or diseases such as anaemia, fibrosis of the lung, risks of heart attack, stroke, or some cancers.

Book an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Early detection of arthritis makes it easier to treat the condition with effective and appropriate treatment. A dedicated and expert team of Orthopaedic specialists at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance. 

Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have concerns or questions regarding arthritis. We assure you the best possible care tailored to your specific needs.

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

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