The Causes And Treatment For Joint Inflammation

 

Joint inflammation occurs as a result of chemicals expelled during organ or tissue destruction or naturally by the body’s immune system, and this progresses to swelling, pain, and other manifestations in the joint.

Inflammation can affect just one joint or multiple joints of the body but this is dependent on the etiology. If it occurs as a result of injury, it may affect just a joint but if it is as a result of a systemic pathology such as immunosuppression, multiple joints can be affected (1). Joint inflammation medical term is referred to as arthritis.

When joint inflammation occurs, vasodilation occurs, that is, the blood vessels leading to the joint get dilated to allow blood flow to the affected site. The immune system also responded by causing the release of white blood cells, and the soldiers responsible for fighting an infection at the site also.

All these responses lead to the inflammatory symptoms that occur at the injection site. Pain, hotness, redness, swelling, and loss of function are common manifestations of inflamed joints (1).

Risk Factors For Joint Inflammation

These risk factors for joint inflammation can be classified into modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. The non-modifiable risk factors are those that naturally will predispose an individual to joint inflammation and they cannot be controlled. While the non-modifiable risk factors can be controlled.

The Non-Modifiable Risk Factors Are:

  • – Gender: Women are more at risk of joint inflammation and studies have shown that 60 percent of joint inflammation patients are women. Although joint inflammation resulting from gout is commonly seen among men.
  • – Age: the elderly, who is adults above sixty years of age are more at risk of joint inflammation. The elderly age also predisposes them to immunosuppression which is a modifiable risk factor.
  • – Family history: There are certain causes of joint inflammation that have tendencies of running in the gene such as ankylosing spondylitis, and in such cases, it means it is genetic and family history can predispose a person to it.

The Modifiable Risk Factors For Joint Inflammation Are:

  • – Injuries: injuries to the joint predispose to joint inflammation and are also one of the leading causes of joint inflammation
  • – Obesity: Obesity is a secondary cause of joint inflammation. It predisposes the majority to osteoarthritis which is also one of the leading causes of joint inflammation.
  • – Trauma: trauma to the joints, for example from a road traffic accident is a risk factor for joint inflammation
  • – Joint infections: One of the ways by which the body counters infection is by inflammation. In infection, microbial agents such as antigens are released which induces the immune system to release white blood cells to action which in turn leads to inflammation.
  • – Stress: certain occupation and exercises causes the joints to be overused, for example, continuous bending of the knee or sitting at a point for a long time causing the folding of the knee (5).

Causes Of Joint Inflammation

The major causes of joint inflammation are joint injuries and inflammation secondary to arthritis.

  • – Joint Injuries

Injury to the joint is the commonest cause of unilateral joint inflammation. Although, it can involve multiple joints if they are not far away or from systemic diseases or trauma. A punctured nail to the plantar surface of a foot can result in inflammation in multiple joints.

When an injury occurs, the body uses inflammatory processes to divert the white blood cells, macrophages, and other immune system soldiers to the site of injury to either prevent or fight infection and accelerate the process of wound healing.

However, this doesn’t happen without inflammatory signs manifesting at the injured site.

There can be swelling, pains whose severity is dependent on the individual, redness, and at times loss of function leading to the inability to utilize the affected site. But in such a situation where functioning is already affected, such a person should present to the hospital for further treatment or management (1).

  • – Inflammatory Arthritis.

These categories of arthritis are referred to as inflammatory arthritis. Joint inflammation medical term is arthritis, but all joint inflammations are not from arthritis. Hence, inflammatory arthritis causes joint inflammation.

Arthritis affects the joints and, in this case, is not acute because they gradually graduate to chronic forms, and this is the joint inflammation that affects more than one joint because it can progress to other joints too.

Most common examples of inflammatory arthritis are Rheumatoid arthritis and Systemic Lupus. Others are osteoarthritis and systemic sclerosis.

  • – Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is a generic form of inflammatory arthritis and it is autoimmune. That is, it is a result of the immune system affecting the normal body tissues. And this includes the joints which results in joint inflammation and other organ pathologies. Rheumatoid arthritis affects mostly small joints.

The joint inflammation fingers often develop subcutaneous nodules and skin changes. It destroys both cartilages and bones after affecting the synovium which majorly harbors the fluid that helps in lubrication of the joints. Although the etiology is still idiopathic, that is, it is unknown, some biomarkers help in making the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (6).

  • – Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that affects different systems of the body including the musculoskeletal system. Lupus results in inflammation of the joints and other organs. Joint inflammation from lupus is a chronic inflammation that can result in damage to such joints (4).

  • – Systemic Sclerosis

Systemic sclerosis also called scleroderma, is an autoimmune disorder, which causes both inflammation and joint stiffness, this results in pain and edema of the affected joints as well as skin thickness around the affected joints (4).

  • – Osteoarthritis

This is the most common type of arthritis also leading to chronic joint degeneration (2). It mostly occurs from stress and friction of the affected joints which causes the breakdown of the joint cartilage.

This further leads to inflammation of the affected joint and manifested with swelling, pain, and sometimes loss of function when severe (3). Studies have shown that majority of the inflammatory arthritis is autoimmune that result when the body’s immune system attacks the normal body tissue.

The role of infection in joint inflammation cannot be underestimated, Joint inflammation medical term when it occurs as a result of infection is known as septic arthritis. Most of the time, this can occur as a result of septicemia when infection from other areas spread to the affected joint. This inflammation often resolves with the use of antibiotics but can get severe with poor or no treatment (1).

Clinical Manifestations Of Joint Inflammation

The following are the symptoms of joint inflammation:

  • – Edema of the affected joint (swelling)
  • – Pain in the affected joint
  • – Warmth and redness of the joint
  • – Others are stiffness and loss of function, inability to bear weight, especially in the lower extremities (2).

Joint inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis often manifests with some or all of the following:

  • – Fever which is usually a low fever
  • – Tiredness
  • – Smaller joints are more affected compared to big joints
  • – Joint stiffness especially in the morning
  • – Involvement of the heart
  • – Involvement of more than one joint
  • – High white blood cell count but low red cell count (6).

Diagnosis Of Joint Inflammation

The diagnosis of joint inflammation starts from history taking. An adequate history of the affected joint, and the possible causes and complications confer so far.

A thorough examination is also required to assess the joint movements and rule out the stiffness of the affected joint, check for pains which is manifest as tenderness on touching, and to check if there is swelling of affected joints. Joint inflammation fingers are often swollen especially from rheumatoid arthritis (3).

Investigations are also required in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis such as:

– A blood test to check for white and red blood cells level, and to detect rheumatoid factors. An X-ray can also be done to detect any deformities in the bone, especially if bone inflammation is chronic already. And to check for any fractures as well.

– CT and MRI may also be required if there is any suspected soft tissue injury or destruction (3).

Treatment For Joint Inflammation

The appropriate treatment for joint inflammation will be dependent on the etiology of the inflammation. Depending on the cause, some may require conservative treatment while others will require lifestyle modifications, the use of medications, and surgical procedures (1).

Medications For Joint Inflammation

There are several drugs available for joint inflammation to ease the pain and associated swelling. Some of these drugs are:

  1. 1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to relieve the pain and suppress the edema
  2. 2. Corticosteroids such as prednisolone, and parenteral corticosteroids can also be used depending on the severity of the joint inflammation.
  3. 3. Non-specific drugs, this is because these drugs are not specific to inflammatory conditions alone. They can also be utilized in the treatment of other conditions. Such as cancers, gastric diseases, and lots more. Examples of such drugs are strong pain relievers like narcotics, sedatives when pain is preventing patients from sleeping, and chemotherapy agents.

The duration and dosage will vary to avoid side effects from the drugs and close monitoring of patients on these drugs are also very important (2).

Physical Therapy

The importance of physical therapy in the management of joint inflammation cannot be underestimated. The patient should be referred to the physiotherapy team as early as possible. This will help to prevent and treat complications such as stiffness and loss of functions and to help the patient adjust to living and carry out daily activities (3).

Lifestyle Modifications

  1. 1. Exercise

The physical therapist will also recommend the appropriate exercise to the patient to help in weight loss especially if the patient is obese and to also keep fit to avoid complications that can arise from the inflammation (6).

  1. 2. Diet management

Healthy eating is an important aspect of health and also very important for weight loss and maintaining an appropriate weight. In inflammation, foods rich in antioxidants are the best as they help to slow down inflammatory processes.

Such foods are fish, fruits, and vegetables. Others are nuts and certain herbs.

Foods that should be avoided in treatment for joint inflammation are fries, excessive meat, and fries (6).

Surgery

Surgery is usually recommended in joint inflammation after the medical and conservative treatment fails and this is usually in the cases of inflammatory arthritis. Sometimes, the surgeries include joint replacement if due to chronic joint disease, or fusion in severe cases (3).

Home Remedies In Treatment For Joint Inflammation

Studies have shown that several home remedies can help in the management of joint inflammation. Examples of such are:

  • – RICE Principle: This is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Just as the acronym implies, the patient needs to rest the affected joint or limbs, apply ice for about twenty to thirty minutes which will help to reduce the inflammation, and wrap around the joint to help relieve the inflammation and elevation of the affected limbs.
  • – Massage: massage should not be done without the knowledge of the healthcare provider, but in cases where it has been indicated, it has shown to be effective in relieving inflammation.
  • – Heat Application: the type of inflammation and the cause of the inflammation will determine if heat can be used. It is better to wait a while before applying heat.
  • – Exercise: exercise at home can help reduce inflammation, reduce swelling and improve function. But it is best to do an exercise based on guidance from the physical therapist because different injuries require different strengths of exercise (1).

When To Call The Attention Of The Doctor To Joint Inflammation

The doctor should be contacted in the presence of one or some of the following:

  • – Persistent and severe pain for days
  • – Failure of medications
  • – Failure of home remedies
  • – Loss of function in the affected joint limb
  • – The onset of new symptoms progressively
  • – Pain is more in the morning after waking

In the presence of one or some of the above, the doctor needs to be contacted for further investigations and management (1).

Prevention Of Joint Inflammation

The following helps to reduce the risks of joint inflammation:

  • – Healthy eating
  • – Regular and consistent exercise
  • – Avoid smoking or taking alcohol
  • – Maintain a good body weight (2).

References:

  1. 1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/joint-inflammation
  2. 2. https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/arthritis-inflammation
  3. 3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12061-arthritis
  4. 4. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/arthritis#:~:text=Key%20points%20about%20arthritis&text=Symptoms%20may%20include%20pain%2C%20stiffness,reduction%2C%20exercise%2C%20and%20surgery.
  5. 5. https://arthritis.ca/about-arthritis/arthritis-risk-factors
  6. 6. https://www.healthline.com/health/arthritis#diagnosis