Arthritis Symptoms are related to cartilage damage
and the inflammation that it causes.
Pain, Pain, and Pain from
Joint Damage and Inflammation.
Whenever your body is injured your immune system will try to heal the injury by generating inflammation.
Cardinal Signs of Inflammation
Rubor is the redness from increased blood flow.
Tumor causes the swelling from plasma moving into and around the damaged area.
Calor means heat from the inflammatory chemicals (histamines, prostaglandins, others)
Dolor pain from irritation of the nerves.
From Injury or Infection
Inflammation will occur anytime you have an injury or you have an infection.
Arthritis symptoms will develop gradually, often over many years.
Many of these arthritis symptoms develop so gradually that they don't bother you.
It is usually the pain that causes people to seek medical attention.
A normal shoulder joint
compared to an arthritic joint.
Image thanks to Hellerhoff, via Wikimedia Commons
Pain from Joint Damage
Pain from Exposed Nerve Endings ......... Pain from Inflammation
Some people will tell you that the first 3 symptoms of arthritis are pain, pain and pain. There can also be swelling and stiffness, but pain has a way of getting your attention.
Degenerative Joint Disease
Degenerative Joint Disease can cause pain directly when the cartilage is damaged exposing areas of bone with nerve endings. Think of a worn out tire with the cords underneath the rubber exposed.
Cartilage normally protects the nerve endings. It is smooth and shiny, and it has no nerve endings. When the cartilage wears out sensitive surfaces are exposed.
Like a Worn Tire
Just like the worn out tire exposing the cords underneath the rubber. Think of those cords as sensitive nerves and every time they hit the road you get a jab of pain.
The classical signs of inflammation are pain, swelling, heat, redness, and loss of function. Sound familiar? These are also the signs of arthritis.
When your body is injured inflammation is part of the healing process. A complex series of reactions brings extra fluid into the tissues which will allow white blood cells and other more specialized cells of your immune system to enter the area.
Special Cells of Your Immune System
Megakaryocytes produce platelets that help stop bleeding.
B cells produce antibodies that help fight infection.
Natural Killer Cells attack and eliminate unhealthy or foreign cells
Phagocytes engulf and carry away foreign cells, damaged cells, and cell particles.
Several other types of cells stimulate the immune response causing
more swelling, heat and redness.
These immune system cells and chemicals irritate the nerves and make them more sensitive. Any pain you are feeling becomes more severe. The swelling causes stiffness making the joint difficult to move.
Arthritis is Chronic Inflammation
When any of your joints are damaged for any reason your body fights back with inflammation and that is what causes many of the symptoms of arthritis.
That is why many arthritis medications and arthritis treatments contain anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or diclofenac. They treat arthritis by interrupting the chain of events that lead to inflammation.
Blood Tests for Inflammation
Laboratory studies can help your doctor determine the severity of your arthritis.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) and C-Reactive Protein (CRP) are blood tests that measure inflammation.
You Can Measure Your Inflammation
They can be used to measure how bad your arthritis is and how well the treatments are working.
When your doctor starts you on a treatment plan such as ibuprofen and physical therapy he may check your ESR and CRP a few months later to see if you are getting better.