The joints feel hot, swollen, and painful, especially when moving: Typical signs of joint inflammation or arthritis. In any case, joint inflammation should be treated as early as possible to avoid complications. The sooner arthritis is treated, the better the chances of protecting the affected joints from lasting damage.
Arthritis is what doctors call inflammation of the joints. In contrast, there is osteoarthritis, which is an aging or wear-related (degenerative) change in joints. Joint inflammation or arthritis can have different causes. Doctors differentiate between bacterial (purulent) and non-bacterial (non-infectious) inflammation of the joints. The most common form of non-infectious joint inflammation is rheumatoid arthritis.
If only one joint (for example, hip or knee joint) is inflamed, doctors speak of monoarthritis, if fewer than five joints (for example wrists and elbows or knees, ankles and ankles) are called oligoarthritis. An inflammation of several joints (for example finger or toe joints) is called polyarthritis.
Joints Commonly Affected by Arthritis:
- Knee joint (gonarthritis)
- Hip joint (coxarthritis)
- Shoulder joint (omarthritis)
- Wrists and fingers (often called rheumatoid arthritis).
However, all other joints can also be affected by arthritis.
In arthritis, the affected joint is almost always overheated, reddened, and painfully swollen. The pain usually increases when the inflamed joint is put under pressure. The mobility of the joint is often limited. Sometimes a joint effusion (especially on the knee and elbow joints) can be felt. Sometimes those affected feel sick, tired, weak, and have no appetite. Joint inflammation is often accompanied by fever. Joint inflammation is also not uncommon in children. They stand out due to their pronounced reluctance to play and want to be worn permanently.
Doctors divide arthritis into bacterial (purulent) and non-bacterial (non-infectious) arthritis according to its cause.
Causes of Bacterial Arthritis
In bacterial or purulent arthritis, staphylococci and streptococci, more rarely E. coli, gonococci, Haemophilus influenza, or Shigella are usually the cause of joint inflammation. These germs get to the joint in three main ways:
- via the blood (hematogenous), as a result of other diseases: for example gonorrhea (gonorrhea), inflammation of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis), or drug addiction
- from outside through injuries or (unsterile) injections, punctures, or operations on the joint
- Spread from the neighborhood, usually as a result of an inflammation of the bone (such as osteomyelitis) invading the joint or as a result of a bacterial soft tissue infection of the tissues surrounding the joint.
Causes of Non-Bacterial Arthritis
Non-bacterial arthritis can be caused by fungi (such as Candida species) or it can occur together with other non-infectious diseases (such as psoriasis or gout). However, non-bacterial joint inflammations of the rheumatic type (rheumatism) are more common. This includes above all rheumatoid arthritis (chronic polyarthritis).
Arthritis is suspected by the doctor based on the symptoms and after examining the affected joint. To confirm the diagnosis, blood tests and imaging procedures such as sonography, X-rays, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) follow. If bacterial joint inflammation is suspected, the joint should be punctured and synovial fluid examined.
In bacterial (purulent) arthritis, the joint is usually opened surgically and treated surgically. In the case of large joints, arthroscopy is performed. During this procedure, inflamed joint material is removed, sometimes together with the synovial membrane. Then the inflamed joint is rinsed and cleaned.
According to the current state of research, regular rinsing by arthroscopy with an antibiotic solution every two days is the method of choice. At the same time, the patients receive antibiotics (especially cephalosporins and penicillin), initially via an infusion, later as tablets or juice to take by mouth.
Pain is usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as diclofenac, ibuprofen, indomethacin, or naproxen. Sometimes anti-inflammatory cortisone preparations are also used.
Discussion about arthroscopy of the knee joint
Knee endoscopies have hit the headlines again and again in the recent past. And there are probably justified doubts as to whether all of the 100,000 or more knee arthroscopies actually make sense. However, this does not apply to the diagnosis of arthritis. If fluid has accumulated in the knee joint, it must be removed in most cases. In the case of knee joint pain due to wear-related, non-inflammatory osteoarthritis, however, in many cases, the knee-joint endoscopy is of little use.
Self-Help With Arthritis
Inflamed joints should not be excessively stressed. Avoid extreme sports that put stress on the joints such as weightlifting, hand, and soccer or tennis. Instead, joint-friendly sports such as swimming, aqua aerobics, or walking, as well as regular walks, are recommended.
The amino sugar glucosamine is an important component of human joint cartilage and synovial fluid. Dietary supplements with chondroitin or glucosamine as well as drugs with the active ingredients of green-lipped mussels or hyaluronic acid can support the healing process in arthritis.
- Make sure you have normal body weight. Being overweight can put a painful strain on the joints and should therefore be avoided or reduced.
- Proper nutrition is also important. It should be varied and rich in vitamins. Above all, the adequate supply of vitamins B and E (especially in yeast, milk and milk products, fish, offal, fruit, and vegetables) is important to prevent joint problems.
Try to avoid stress. It is helpful to learn relaxation techniques such as autogenic training, yoga, or Qi Gong. You can get tips and information from your health insurance company or adult education center.