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What should you know about arthritis?

The 12th of October marks World Arthritis Day, which promotes awareness of arthritis’ symptoms, and encourages early treatment. Many people mistake arthritis as an elderly disease that involves minor joint pain, but in fact, it can happen to people of different ages, sexes, and races, and even result in debilitating pain and disability. In today’s Inspire Bangkok article, Pacific Prime Thailand will provide a brief overview of different kinds of arthritis, their symptoms, and treatment methods.

What exactly is arthritis?

Arthritis is a collective term used to describe over 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that cause chronic joint inflammation or joint pain, the most common types of which are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, and mostly affects the elderly. Almost everyone will get osteoarthritis at some point if they get old enough. This is because osteoarthritis is developed when the cartilage wears away and grinds directly against bones, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Over time, the joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic.

 

In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is more of a younger person’s disease. This type of arthritis affects all ages, including children, and is more common in females. Inflamed joints caused by diseases such as rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis and lupus are considered autoimmune diseases.It happens when one’s immune system goes awry and attacks the joint capsule – a tough membrane that encloses all a joints parts – with uncontrolled inflammation.

 

It is crucial to diagnose and identify the type of arthritis a patient is suffering from by means of blood tests and physical exams before providing treatment. For instance, while rheumatoid arthritis is more painful and stiff in the morning, osteoarthritis usually worsens with activity.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Patients with arthritis may experience a vast array of symptoms at the same time. Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, fatigue, numbness, morning stiffness and hampered motion. These minor symptoms may come and go, and progress over a course of weeks or months. They may come suddenly and cause intense agony, or start slowly and mildly.

 

In serious cases, patients may even experience visible permanent joint changes, such as knobby finger joints.

What are the treatment methods of arthritis currently?

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for arthritis. Generally speaking, the main goals of treatment are to control pain and inflammation, prevent joint deformity and destruction, and maximize joint function.

For osteoarthritis patients

For those suffering from osteoarthritis, physicians generally advise physical therapy and other safe physical activities like walking. Anti-inflammatory injections and over-the-counter pain relief medications taken under the direction of a physician can help with osteoarthritis pain. While healthy habits can delay osteoarthritis for many people, if the disease has become so severe that it limits mobility and affects quality of life, patients may have to undergo joint replacement surgery to relieve the symptoms.

For rheumatoid arthritis patients

On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is more aggressive and can destroy joints quickly, which is why early diagnosis and treatment is particularly important for this kind of arthritis. Treatment can help reduce pain, and slow or even prevent disease progression.

 

The treatment goal for rheumatoid arthritis is more specific, which is to alter or even weaken a patient’s immune response so that it will not trigger painful joint inflammation.

Pharmaceutical therapies

Pharmaceutical therapies are usually adopted to achieve this goal. Currently, there are numerous medications to control and treat rheumatoid arthritis, including:

 

Immunosuppressive steroids may be used, but they may cause long-term side effects due to their non-specific immunosuppression.

 

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are another possible option since they can slow down the progression of the disease, and can be used alone or in combination therapies.

 

If still ineffective, biologic DMARDs may be recommended. They are newer types of DMARDS which target several different proteins responsible for inflammation. However, they will only be prescribed when at least two standard DMARDs have been tried (one of which must be methotrexate), and the patient’s disease is not well-controlled. This treatment is administered by injection.

 

Other than weakening the immune response, physicians may also prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain and inflammation, but they will not slow down RA’s progression.

 

All these medications, however, do not help with damage that has already occurred.

Non-pharmaceutical therapies

Other than the above-mentioned therapies, there are some other treatment options, such as acupuncture and even stem cell therapy. Besides, there are other strategies that can help protect joints from further damage, such as physical or occupational therapy, pain management techniques, and weight loss.

Does my insurance cover arthritis?

Typically speaking, if you are securing travel or life insurance, insurers are likely to take into accounts factors such as your date of diagnosis, the frequency of symptoms, the severity of symptoms, and treatment methods during the underwriting process. This may incur a loading to your premiums if your condition is more severe and requires more expensive treatment.

 

As for health insurance, the outpatient component of a comprehensive medical insurance plan will provide coverage for arthritis as long as the insured has not already been diagnosed with the condition when the policy is purchased. If arthritis is already present, the condition will be treated as a pre-existing condition by the underwriter, and is likely to be excluded. It is possible that an insurer may then allow for arthritis coverage for an additional cost in the form of a loading, but this must be negotiated with the insurer prior to plan purchase.

 

While it is time-consuming to get in touch with different insurers one by one, you can engage the service of a professional, established insurance broker like Pacific Prime Thailand to find the right insurance product quickly and easily. Their team of consultants knows the ins and outs of different insurers in Thailand, as well as their insurance products, and can offer you unbiased advice based on your needs and budget. Contact us today to get answers to any insurance-related questions you may have, and a  free quote and plan comparison.

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