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Arthritis is very common throughout the world but can still be confusing to many people. There are more than one hundred types of arthritis and conditions related to it. It is the leading cause of disability in America, affecting any age, race, or sex. It is more common as you get older. More than fifty million adults have a form of arthritis and around three hundred thousand children suffer from the disease. 
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is often inflammation of one or more of your joints but can also affect the heart, lungs, eyes, kidneys, and skin. There are two common types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 
Osteoarthritis (OA)
Osteoarthritis is the most common form and is also sometimes known as “wear and tear” arthritis because you suffer from wear and tear of the cartilage in your joints. Inside an unaffected joint the cartilage aids the joint motion and is a cushion between the bones. OA breaks down the cartilage causing swelling and making it hard to move the joint. Over time spurs can form if the bone begins to break down. Small bits of cartilage and bone may chip off and float around the joint. The body may react with an inflammatory process where cytokines and enzymes are produced that will further damage the cartilage. All ages can be affected from osteoarthritis, but it is more common in people sixty five and older. You are at a higher risk as your age increases, you are obese, overuse of the joint, and family history. OA can affect any joint but is mostly found in the knees, lower back and neck, and small joints of the fingers. One in two adults have symptoms of osteoarthritis throughout their lives, one in four people will experience symptoms of hip OA by the age of eighty five, and one in twelve people sixty years and older suffer from hand osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis is another very common type of arthritis. RA is an autoimmune disease caused by the immune system working improperly. Your immune system normally will attack bacteria and viruses with inflammation but with rheumatoid arthritis your immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. The inflammation causes the tissue (the synovium) in the joint to thicken causing swelling and pain. The synovium’s job is to lubricate the joint and when thickened it can no longer do that. If RA goes untreated for too long cartilage may be lost. A unique characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis is stiffness in the morning that will usually go away during the day with movement of the joint. Symptoms specific to rheumatoid arthritis are loss of energy and appetite, low fevers, and forming of rheumatoid nodules. RA is normally found in the wrists and the small joints of the hands and feet. Over one million people have RA with about seventy five percent being women. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people at any age, but it commonly starts between thirty and fifty years of age. There is no cause known for RA although you are more likely to experience it if a family member is diagnosed. 
How do you get Arthritis?
You are at a higher risk of developing arthritis is you have family history of the disease or if you carry the genes. It is natural for cartilage to break down at slow rate as you get older. Overuse of the joint, injury, infection, abnormal metabolism, or an overactive immune system are some things that contribute to the deterioration of cartilage.
One of the most common symptoms for most types of arthritis is pain and is usually accompanied by swelling, stiffness, reddening, and decreased range of motion. Some people find that symptoms come and go, and the severity can vary. The stronger types of arthritis can result in chronic pain. This can make daily activities more difficult like climbing stairs or even walking. There may be some visible joint changes that can become permanent, such as knobby finger joints. Imaging is used to view damage that isn’t visible to the eye.
Your first step in being diagnosed is having a physical exam by your doctor. The doctor will check for swelling, redness, and warmth in and around your joints. He or she will also want to see how well you move your joints. The doctor will decide if there will be an arthritis diagnosis and if there is, how severe it is. 
Lab tests may be ordered to test your body fluids. Analysis of blood, urine, and joint fluid can usually determine the type of arthritis you have. Imaging tests are common for people with arthritis. X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds are used to see inside the joint. These devices make it easy to see any break down of the cartilage or bone. 
The purpose of treatment for arthritis is to relieve as many symptoms as possible and improve joint function. Different combinations of treatments may be needed to find the one that fits your symptoms and pain level. There are many medications available to treat arthritis. Common medications are pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, creams and ointments, and drugs to suppress the immune system. 
Natural Treatments
You can help improve your arthritis by doing simple things like walking and moving the joint. Many people prefer a natural way to help their arthritis. Some vitamins and foods have been known to help with pain and swelling. Heating and icing can help reduce inflammation within the joint and numb the pain. Massaging the joint can also help. Things like yoga and tai chi help can help with the mobility of the joints. 
Therapy is found to help people with arthritis. Though it can be hard sometimes, exercise can help improve range of motion of the joint to keep it from contacting. The physical therapist can show you ways to improve mobility without further damaging the joint. Physical therapy also helps after an injury to the joint or after a joint replacement to restrengthen the surrounding muscles. Acupuncture and massage therapy is another good way to relieve pain.  
Surgery can be an option for people who have severe arthritis. Joint repair is used to realign a joint or smooth the surfaces to reduce the pain. This can be done with small incisions made over the joint. Joint replacement is common in the hips and knees. This fully replaces the joint with an artificial one. The last surgery option is joint fusion. It removes the ends of the bones in the joint to fuse the two bones together into one unit. This is usually preformed on smaller joints. 
What Body Systems does Arthritis Affect?
Most of the body can be affected by arthritis. The initial damage is done to the skeletal system. The cartilage and bones that are affected by arthritis are both parts of the skeletal system. Deterioration of the cartilage and bone can lead to other systems being damaged. Nerves could get pinched with bone grinding affecting the nervous system. The muscular system may be affected by lack of movement. Muscles could weaken and eventually contract if range of motion exercises are not done. In some causes with RA the lungs can be affected which are part of the respiratory system. 
What can I do as a CNA?
As a CNA you will most likely see people with arthritis in long term car facilities. It is important to know all range of motion exercises that need to be preformed on each resident. Some residents may be able to do the exercises on their own with a little encouragement making them active range of motion exercises. Passive range of motion exercises are down when the patient or resident is unable to do them on their own. These are often done during a bed bath or during the facilities exercise time. They may attend therapy daily to improve the exercises. It is important to encourage someone with arthritis to move around and work the affected joints. They may need emotional support because it can be painful to move the stiff joints. It is also important to encourage them to eat healthy foods and do the things they have found to help specifically. 
With so many people already suffering from arthritis it is important that people are educated on symptoms and signs. If you can catch arthritis in an early state it can be managed and treated. Early treatment can lead to longer mobility, less pain, and easier everyday living. 

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