Artrosi e artrite: differenze e correlazioni

Arthosis and arthritis: differences and correlations

Arthritis: when antibodies go haywire

Arthritis is a chronic and systemic inflammatory disease of autoimmune origin. The disease is triggered by a malfunction of the immune system, which at any point in life, even during youth, goes "haywire" or loses its balance and attacks the joints, particularly the cartilage, as if they were foreign bodies to be rejected, like a virus or an infection to fight against. Antibodies, which usually defend our body, attack its tissues, probably in response to antigens produced by the body, causing joint damage that can sometimes lead to serious harm in a very short span of time. All joints can be affected: the spine, hands, lower limbs, shoulders, and even facial joints. Arthritis is more frightening than arthosis, mainly because it can also happen at a young age and in a very aggressive and devastating way, leading to severe functional deficits in a very short period. When the arthritis occurs in a severe form, it leads to have to modify the work and leisure activities, as well as reduce or stop any physical activities.


Types and Symptoms

There are various types of arthritis. Besides rheumatoid arthritis, which is the most known form, there is gouty arthritis or gout, caused by the accumulation of urate crystals in the joints, leading to a swelling called "tophi," affecting the area of the big toe, particularly in men. Another common type is psoriatic arthritis, affecting individuals with psoriasis in the joints of the fingers.

The main symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness in the joints, indicating inflammation of the joints, much like for arthrosis. This is why the two conditions are often mistaken and confused, even though they have different features.

Cervical Arthrosis? We discussed it here

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The most known form of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, a systemic disease, that can affect various organs and systems besides the joints, causing serious complications and worsen prognosis.

At the diagnostic level, it can be identified by the presence of specific antibodies in the serum. The most significant of these antibodies are Rheumatoid Factor (present in about 80% of cases) and Anti-Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide (present in 60-80% of cases, with a specificity of 98%). The latter is particularly important because it can be present in the early stages of the disease, even before joint inflammation becomes evident, and it indicates a higher likelihood of developing significant damages.


Arthritis versus Artrosis

When faced with joint pain, especially if it affects the whole body, the first question to ask oneself is whether it is arthrosis or arthritis. Unfortunately, one condition doesn't exclude the other, so both forms can coexist, complicating the symptoms and the ability to move.

Arthrosis is a form of joint degeneration hat primarily affects the joint lining, i.e., the cartilage. The degeneration is caused by five main factors: heredity (family predisposition), age (aging of the joints), lifestyle (lack of physical activity and obesity trigger arthrosis that might otherwise remain silent), diet (overweight and consumption of foods that trigger cartilage damage and ultimately wear and tear due to repeated movements of a specific joint).

Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the cartilage, mistakenly identified as a foreign body. The immune system, at any point in life and without a known triggering cause, loses its balance and starts attacking joint cartilage as if it were foreign bodies to be fought, causing significant damages.


Arthrosis and arthritis: two different conditions

Commonly, these two terms are often used almost interchangeably, but refer to two different diseases. It is important to know the difference for a better diagnostic approach. Let's see the main differences.

What Causes Arthrosis?

- Age-related: initial symptoms can appear around age 40-45, due to joint ageing.

- Hereditary: family predisposition is a major risk factor for developing the disease.

- Widely prevalent: in Italy alone, over 5 million people are affected by arthrosis.

- Affects more women.

- Affects certain body parts mainly fingers, wrists, knees, and hips.

- Not necessarily disabling: it can become disabling, unless it is not properly dealt with (timeliness and a lifestyle change are crucial).


What Causes Arthritis?

- Not age-related: it can affect at any age, even during youth.

- Not hereditary.

- Less prevalent: around 350,000 people in Italy are affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

- Affects both men and women.

- Affects all body parts: arthritis can damage shoulders, spine, lower limbs, and face.

- A disabling disease: associated with a high risk of disability and a reduced average lifespan


Arthritis Causes and Remedies

As mentioned, arthritis can occur at any point in life due to causes not always known. However, some evidences suggest that individuals with immune deficiencies, fatigue, emotional stress, chronic anxiety, or exposure to chronic stressors are more inclined. In addition to stress, certain viral infections like herpes and smoking can also trigger it.

Regarding the treatments, there aren’t unfortunately cures for arthritis that can get the immune system back to his function. Moreover, the drugs used for the pain and inflammation have severe side effects, especially when used for a long time. However, there are natural remedies that can reduce symptoms and delay the disease progression. Just like with arthrosis, an anti-inflammatory diet and the use of specific joint supplements are essential for reducing joint inflammation.

In case of joint stiffness and to preserve muscle tone, it is important to seek professional help. Specialized physiotherapy helps improve joint mobility, increase muscle strength, and generally reduce pain.

Also read about knee arthrosis..

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