Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints in the body. The disease is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States. Steroids are a class of drugs that reduce inflammation and have a suppressing effect on the immune system. It is because of these properties your doctor may prescribe you steroids to reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Steroids are potent as well as quick-acting medications. They resemble the body’s natural anti-inflammatory hormone, cortisol. They may be administered in a variety of ways ranging from topical (applied over the skin in the form of ointments or creams), oral, and injections given in the muscles, veins, or the joint space (intraarticular).
Steroids should never be started or stopped without consulting the doctor. It must be remembered that though steroids can cause quick relief from pain, long term use of steroids is associated with harmful effects on bones like reduced bone mass and avascular death of some parts of the hip joint. Steroids also have other systemic adverse effects. It is therefore important to discuss with your doctor before starting medications. They are used in different types of arthritis, particularly for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
What is arthritis?
There are many types of arthritis and their underlying cause varies depending on the type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are two of the common types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs due to the wear and tear associated with age or injuries. Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is caused by an autoimmune phenomenon, which means that the body’s immune system in RA attacks the normal lining of the joints causing arthritis.
Some of the other types of arthritis are:
- Psoriatic arthritis: An inflammatory condition that mainly affects the skin and joints.
- Juvenile arthritis: It affects children and teens.
- Gout: A disease in which defective uric acid metabolism causes arthritis.
- Reactive arthritis: A joint inflammation triggered by an infection in another part of the body, such as bowel, genitals, or urinary tract.
- Infectious arthritis: A sudden and painful arthritis due to joint infection.
- Lupus: A long-term condition that affects various parts of the body including the skin and joints.
- Ankylosing spondylitis: An inflammatory condition affecting the spine and large joints.
What are the risk factors for arthritis?
The triggers for arthritis may vary according to the type of the disease. Most types of arthritis do not have a known cause. Studies, however, have revealed the role of three major factors in certain types of arthritis:
- Genetic (inherited) factors causing some types of arthritis to run in families
- Physical activity and diet
- Presence of other medical conditions, such as infections and chronic diseases like lupus
Several factors may increase a person’s risk for arthritis:
- Age: The risk of getting arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, increases with age. Age may also worsen the symptoms of arthritis.
- Gender: Arthritis generally affects women more than men.
- Weight: Being obese or overweight puts extra stress on the joints that support an individual’s weight. Increased weight beyond the normal range for a person’s age and height increases joint wear and tear and the risk of arthritis.
- Occupation: Certain jobs may involve the worker to keep doing the same movements repeatedly. These include jobs where one needs to do heavy lifting or repeated fine work as done by musicians. It can cause joint stress and/or an injury, which may lead to arthritis.
- Injury: Joint injury or trauma may cause osteoarthritis.
- Autoimmune diseases: These may misdirect the immune system towards the joints as seen in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
- Infections: Certain infections may lead to joint inflammation as seen in tubercular arthritis and septic arthritis.
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