What is arthritis?


“Tomorrow's rain will bring the cold, and cold will be the rain!
 And something in your mind tells you, that rain is cold and cold is pain!
 Then, when cold bites, it is no hope, your fragile joints are in pain!”
(English popular song)

  • “Doc, it hurts all over!”
         This is a regular complaint in a rheumatologist's office. The word “rheuma” has been used since antiquity as something which flows through the body and produces the pain. Unfortunately, very often this pain may be associated with major organ involvement like the kidney, lungs, heart or brain, which sometimes makes the rheumatologist's task very difficult.

  • Why do we feel the Pain?
         Pain is the best warning system of the body, telling you that something is wrong in you. It is a well-known unpleasant feeling, which most of the time is associated with actual or potential tissue damage to a person's internal organs. Specialized nervous cells (the neurons) are in charge to transmit the pain signals from different parts of the body like skin, muscles, joints or other organs to the brain, where the pain is received and analyzed.

  • “Arthritis” or “Joint pain” ?
         The word “arthritis” literally means joint inflammation, an accumulation of cells and fluid from blood into the joints. However, it is often used to refer to a group of more than 100 rheumatic disorders that can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. These diseases may affect not only the joints but also other parts of the body, including important supporting structures, such as muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments, as well as some internal organs.

  • How Frequent the Arthritis Pain Is?
         This is a major health problem all over the world. In the United States there are more than 54 million peoples with arthritis pain annually; this is about 20% of the US population. The total cost to treat this condition is over 200 billion dollars a year. It is important to mention that many people use the word “arthritis” to refer to all rheumatic diseases. However, the word itself means joint inflammation.

  • What Causes the Arthritis Pain?
         The pain of arthritis is the pain we feel in and around the joints. It varies greatly from person to person, for reasons not yet completely understood. Factors that contribute to the pain include swelling, the amount of heat or redness present, or damage that has occurred within the joint. In addition, activities affect pain differently so that some patients note pain in their joints after first getting out of bed in the morning, whereas others develop pain after their prolonged joint use. Each individual has a different threshold and tolerance for pain, often affected by both physical and emotional factors.

  • How Arthritis Pain Could be Measured?
         Pain is a very private and unique experience that cannot be seen. The most common way to measure pain is for the doctors to ask you about it. For example, the doctors may ask you to describe the level of pain you feel on a scale from 0, no pain, to 1, the least, up to 10, the worst pain you experienced. You may use words like aching, burning, stinging, or throbbing. These words will give the doctors a very clear picture of the type of pain you are experiencing, and may also be a good indicator of your disease.
    Since doctors rely on your description of pain to help guide the treatment, it is helpful to keep a pain diary to record your pain scale and different sensations.
         For example: “On Tuesday night, it was a sharp pain in my ankles that occurred during my sleep; on Thursday morning, because of the pain in my knees, I could not get out of bed. I had to take three Tylenols to be able to move.
         This type of diary will give the doctor some insight into your type of pain and may play a critical role in the management of your disease.
         The cold and damp weather increase the pressure of the normal fluid in the joints, fluid which is called the synovial fluid. This is a sign of possible inflammation and it may be helpful to talk with your doctor about it. The synovial fluid may be in part tapped with a sterile needle from the joint and used in different laboratory tests which may guide your diagnosis.
         The earlier arthritis is discovered, the better and successful the treatment will be.
         Don't postpone! Don't neglect! Don't fight the pain by yourself, without treatment!
         It is much better to know about it earlier and to avoid the complications !!!