Polyarthrosis, a special form of arthrosis, is multiple cartilage damage and the most common joint disease worldwide. About 5 million people are affected in Germany.
What is polyarthrosis?
The name is made up of the Greek words for “many” (-poly) and “joint” (athron). It defines a multiple degradation of joint substance that exceeds the age-related joint wear. At least three different types of joints must be affected, otherwise it is osteoarthritis. See polyhobbies for Meanings of Rapunzel Syndrome.
A common example is finger joint arthrosis. Symptoms include pain in the affected joints. Here, however, a distinction must be made between pain of the non-inflammatory type and pain of the inflammatory type. The non-inflammatory pain occurs when the affected areas are stressed and usually disappears during periods of rest.
The opposite is true for pain of the inflammatory type. They increase when the joint is at rest. This case is called activated polyarthrosis. Visually, deformation and inflammatory swelling determine the symptomatic appearance of the disease. Accompanying the occurrence of an increase in synovial fluid is possible.
The result is restricted mobility, which can expand to functional incapacity. Morning stiffness can also occur, but if it occurs intensively, it tends to indicate a rheumatic disease.
The reasons for the development of polyarthrosis are largely unexplained. Whether their causes depend on an increased load on the articular cartilage is controversial. It is possible that injury-related and congenital malpositions of the joints, called dysplasia, can promote the development of polyarthrosis.
They prevent an optimal distribution of the weight when moving because the intended spread area is minimized. The load must focus on a reduced point of contact. At this point, it accelerates the abrasion of the cartilage.
Other reasons for an unnaturally high load on the joints can be obesity and permanent, uniform stress on the affected body parts. A genetic susceptibility, on the other hand, is considered proven. Rheumatic diseases, gout, endocrine disorders, diabetes mellitus and hemophilia are suspected to be further favorable factors.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The first signs of polyarthrosis usually appear in the finger joints. The end and middle joints as well as the thumb saddle joints are affected. At first they only hurt with unusual movements, later they hurt with every movement and finally the resting position is also painful.
Patients often complain that their fingers crack or that rubbing noises can be heard. If the joints are overloaded over a longer period of time, they can become inflamed. Then the corresponding region is red, feels warm, hurts and is swollen. However, polyarthrosis can also occur completely without these signs.
The fingers often become stiff and their ability to move is significantly restricted. As the disease progresses, joint effusion is possible. The symptoms often spread to the muscles and tendons. It is typical of polyarthrosis that the symptoms also appear in many other joints.
The toe joints can be affected, but also large joints such as the hip and knee joints. Less commonly, the disease affects the shoulder joints and the joints between the collarbone and breastbone. In exceptional cases, the small vertebral joints can also be involved. The base joints of the fingers and toes, the hand and elbow joints and the ankles are usually hardly ever affected by this disease.
Diagnosis & History
For a diagnosis of polyarthrosis, the affected parts of the body are checked for the typical swellings. An image of the joints is then taken using an imaging procedure. X-rays show narrowing of the joint space and other changes that indicate overload.
These include small cysts caused by the increased accumulation of synovial fluid, bone compaction and cracks. The cartilage wear cannot yet be understood here. For this purpose, a magnetic resonance imaging must be performed. This makes arthritic changes visible at an early stage.
A joint reflection, a so-called arthroscopy, can alternatively be used to view the joint. Its advantage is that it allows the damage found to be treated at the same time. Activated arthrosis is generally more difficult to diagnose than non-inflammatory ones because it is very similar to other clinical pictures.
As the disease progresses, it can develop into a chronic form of rheumatism, into rheumatoid arthritis, and should be prevented at all costs.
Polyarthrosis causes patients to suffer from various joint problems. This usually leads to irreversible damage to the cartilage. Polyarthrosis also leads to severe pain in the patient’s joints. As a result, various restrictions in everyday life and also movement restrictions occur in the patient.
As a result, the quality of life is significantly reduced and those affected are then often dependent on the help of other people. Especially with high loads, severe pain occurs. Polyarthrosis can also lead to water retention in various parts of the body. The joints themselves often crack and can also be swollen. In many cases, polyarthrosis also has a very negative effect on the patient’s psyche, which can lead to depression or other psychological problems.
Due to the constant pain, those affected are often irritable. Polyarthrosis is usually treated with medication. There are no complications. However, the affected person is dependent on a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid further complaints. Life expectancy is usually not affected by polyarthrosis.
When should you go to the doctor?
Problems or limitations in joint activity should be clarified with a doctor. If the symptoms occur in direct connection with physical overload or heavy strain on the musculoskeletal system, the person concerned usually needs sufficient rest and protection. After a restful night’s sleep or some time to regenerate, symptoms ease until full recovery occurs.
A doctor is not needed in these cases as there is no worrisome condition. If the irregularities persist or if they increase in intensity, a visit to the doctor is advisable. In the case of morning stiffness, repeated disturbances in the movement sequences and pain in the joints, an examination is required to clarify the cause.
If you can no longer carry out your usual sporting activities or if you experience difficulties in coping with everyday life, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Pain medication should only be taken in consultation with the treating doctor in order to avoid further deterioration of health due to side effects.
If mental or emotional abnormalities occur in addition to the physical symptoms, the changes should be discussed with a doctor. A doctor should be consulted if the mood is low or there is a tendency towards depressive phases. A withdrawal behavior, irritability or mood swings are further indications of a health impairment.
Treatment & Therapy
Polyarthrosis is incurable. Cartilage wear cannot be reversed. Therefore, the symptoms are treated. Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac are prescribed for the pain. An ointment containing cortisone can also provide short-term relief.
If the pain is severe, a local anesthetic or a cortisone preparation can be injected. In addition, physical therapy measures can be used to alleviate the symptoms. Heat or cold treatments and contracture treatments that use traction to stimulate the affected joints may help. Activation through gentle movements, which are carried out in occupational therapy or in simple manual activities, has a mobilizing effect.
Special splints can stabilize the joints and compensate for possible misalignments. A direct injection of hyaluronic acid into the affected joint has a pain-relieving effect. Due to its composition, it improves the lubricity of the fluid in the joint and causes a short-term regeneration phase. In addition to the symptomatic therapy options, there should be a reduction or even avoidance of the favorable factors for polyarthrosis.
These include weight reduction and relief of the affected body parts. With sporting activities that are easy on the joints, the muscles can also be strengthened, which is also beneficial to overall physical well-being. Sports that place high demands on the joints should be avoided.
Gentle, regular exercise can help prevent arthritic disease. On the one hand, the muscles are strengthened. On the other hand, the joints are mobilized, which supports the function of the bile and regulates the metabolism in the joint.
Good blood circulation in the joints should be ensured, for example by regularly applying heat or cold. Risk factors such as obesity and overexertion should be minimized. In addition, care must be taken to avoid accidents that can lead to joint injuries.
In most cases, those affected by polyarthrosis have very few or no special aftercare measures available. First and foremost, a doctor should be consulted very early and, above all, very quickly, so that there are no further complications or other complaints for the person concerned. Self-healing cannot occur in polyarthrosis.
The treatment itself is usually based on the intake of various medications. Those affected should pay attention to the correct dosage and also to taking the medication regularly in order to permanently relieve the symptoms. Physiotherapy measures can also be useful.
Many of the exercises in such therapies can also be performed at home, which in most cases will speed up healing. In general, with this disease, a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet has a very positive effect on the further course of the disease. Those affected should also reduce their weight in order to alleviate the symptoms of polyarthrosis.
You can do that yourself
Polyarthrosis cannot be cured, but the course of the disease can be positively influenced by taking a few simple measures. Regular exercise counteracts cartilage degradation, and strong muscles also stabilize the joints. Gentle sports such as cycling, Nordic walking or swimming are well suited, and runners don’t have to do without their sport either: However, you should make sure you wear high-quality running shoes with good cushioning, run little uphill and downhill and, if possible, prefer forest paths to asphalt roads.
In everyday life, too, comfortable shoes are preferable to high heels. In the case of advanced disease, insoles or shoe height adjustment can bring relief. Standing for a long time and carrying heavy loads puts a strain on the joints and should be avoided as far as possible. A healthy diet helps to reduce excess weight and can reduce inflammatory reactions in the body. A low-fat diet rich in vitamins has a beneficial effect; animal fats in particular should rarely be on the menu. Leek, onion and garlic as well as many spices and herbs have an anti-inflammatory effect, fruit, vegetables, salads, potatoes, brown rice and skimmed milk products contribute to an adequate supply of vitamins and trace elements.
Like cold-pressed oils, mackerel and sardines are rich in valuable omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect blood vessels and inhibit joint inflammation. Sugar, saturated and hydrogenated fats, citrus fruits, coffee, alcohol and black tea should be consumed in moderation.