Destructive arthritis is a term used for chronic inflammation of joints and is marked by gradual deterioration and complete destruction of the cartilage and the articular surface of the bone of the joint. The cartilage essentially, acts as a soft tissue for preventing bone-on-bone contact and scratching and also cushions and protects the joints from day-to-day wear and tear.
Absence of cartilage elicits joint pains and swelling around the affected joints that worsens over a period of time, if left untreated.
What Are the Causes of Destructive Arthritis?
Often found between the bones, cartilage is a protective connective tissue, which imparts flexibility to joints and prevents the rubbing of two bones. Hence, destruction of cartilage is one of the primary reasons for the stiffness and severe pain that is experienced by arthritic joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder acts as a major cause of destructive arthritis. Failure of self-reactive immune cells or T-lymphocytes to differentiate between self and non-self antigens leads to the attack on the synovial membrane that covers the joints by the body’s own immune system. This in turn, promotes the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and connective tissue degrading molecules that cause excessive inflammation of the joints, thus leading to redness, swelling, warmth and pain in the affected joints.
Sarcoid arthritis, which is characterized by the accumulation of granulomas in and around the affected joints, is yet another major cause of destructive arthritis. Granulomas are formed by the immune system as a result of deposition of small blood vessels, pieces of connective tissues and the remnants of immune cells that gather to promote inflammation as a means for fighting against an infection.
The infiltration of these inflammatory cells into the surrounding joints and tissues leads to the thickening of the synovial membrane that protects the joints. This paves way for destructive invasion into the cartilage and bones, thus leading to recurrent inflammatory attacks in the joints and disabling joint pain in patients suffering from arthritis. Other factors like age, genetic predisposition, mechanical strain, problems with bone alignment, metabolic changes, etc., can also contribute to the onset of destructive arthritis.
What Are the Complications Associated With Destructive Arthritis?
Prolonged inflammation of the joints leads to an excruciating pain and repeated damage to the joints, cartilage, bones and the surrounding connective tissue. This is manifested in the form of a swelling, stiffness, joint aches, redness, limited movement of the joints and a burning sensation in the joints.
Over a period of time, this leads to the complete destruction of joints and the loss of proprioceptive sensation in patients. This disables the sensory receptors found in the joints and muscles to detect the motion and position of the joints in space, thus preventing a patient from protecting his/her joints while walking.
Can Destructive Arthritis Be Cured?
Unlike other connective tissues, cartilage is not composed of any blood vessels and hence its growth and repair is very slow. This entails an arthritic patient to stay patient and consistent while adapting a combinatorial approach for speeding up the healing process of the damaged cartilage. The more devoid of physical activity an arthritic joint is, the more difficult it gets to improve its functionality.
Hence, physical activity like yoga, walking for about 30 minutes using a crane, moderate exercises like low impact stretching and strengthening exercises involving walking, aquatic aerobics and swimming practiced on a regular basis can help in improving blood circulation, thus relieving the pain in the affected joints and increasing the range of motion of the joints.
Maintaining a healthy weight by practicing not only reduces the amount of strain placed on the joints, but also slows down the overall progression of the disease, thereby preventing the inflammation to spread to additional joints in the body.
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What Are The Treatments Available For Destructive Arthritis?
Many corticosteroids like cortisone, hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, etc., and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) like aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen, etc., are used for blocking inflammation and promoting easy movement of the joints.
The increase in the number of adverse effects reported by arthritic patients have led to the development of biologics, which are genetically engineered drugs that are inserted in the form of human genes that inhibit the production of inflammatory proteins in the body. Massage, heat treatments, injection of fluid supplements, knee bracing and total joint replacement are some other ways of enabling arthritic patients to lead a pain-free life.
Can Dietary Changes Reverse The Symptoms Of Destructive Arthritis?
A well-balanced diet that provides essential nutrients in the correct proportion for the proper functioning of joints can assist in curing destructive arthritis by gradually speeding up the process of cartilage repair. The consumption of raw fruits, vegetables and whole foods not only help you maintain a healthy weight, which is crucially important for keeping the symptoms of destructive arthritis under control, but also aid in lowering the dosage of the medications required to treat this condition.
Consumption of anti-inflammatory foods like garlic, onions, mustard, cherries, turmeric, flaxseeds, nuts, cinnamon oil, etc., helps to suppress inflammation of the joints, which is the primary reason for the occurrence of destructive arthritis. They are fortified with compounds that block the synthesis of cyclooxygenase enzymes that are required for catalyzing the synthesis of prostaglandins and other chemical substances that mediate inflammation in the body.
Foods like citrus fruits, melons, papaya, kiwi, broccoli, avocados, amla, etc., serve as the richest sources of vitamin C, which provides the body with the precursor of collagen fibers that make up the cartilage, a protective connective tissue around the joints and enables the bones to move in relation to each other without friction. Certain foods like that are rich in anti-oxidants like blueberries, plums, oranges, red grapes, spinach, sprouts, asparagus, etc., aid in moping harmful free radicals from the body that accumulate in the join tissues and aggravate the symptoms of inflammation of arthritic joints.
Hence, the intake of the above-mentioned foods can aid in reversing the damage of cartilage by subsiding joints pains and preventing the restriction of the movement of arthritic joints. Also, certain precautionary measures like avoiding alcohol, smoking, caffeine, high-fat diet, refined sugar, processed foods, snacks containing trans fats, dairy products, night-shade family of foods like potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, etc., can reduce the frequency of inflammatory attacks and prevent the worsening of this debilitating condition.
Destructive arthritis is one form of arthritis that progresses at a very fast rate and hence one should immediately begin the treatment after its diagnosis in its initial stages, in order to prevent the disease from causing permanent damage to the joints. Even though, destructive arthritis has no cure, you can certainly manage and slow down the progression of the disease through a multi-dimensional approach that encompass lifestyle changes involving healthy eating habits and regular exercise in conjunction with the intake of medications and treatments prescribed by the doctor for relieving joint pains can prevent further joint deformity and destruction of joints. However, it is important to consult a doctor and a professional nutritionist before making any significant changes in your lifestyle as a part of your treatment regimen.