Arthritis in horses plagues nearly every horseman (or horsewoman) out there. With good reason: arthritis is naturally occurring in equines. Because the difficulties of arthritis are shared by many horse-owners, K and T team member, Anna Miller, thought creating an understandable guide to arthritis would be helpful to our viewers. To make this happen, I've outlined some of the "need-to-know" basics of arthritis using sources trusted by veterinarians (and veterinarians themselves). Medical terms are bolded and dutifully defined by Merriam-Webster.
What is Arthritis, Anyway?
"Arthritis generally results in pain and altered function of the joint. If the process is active or acute, there is usually synovial effusion, and the surrounding tissues are swollen and warm. In more severe cases, manipulation of the joint causes pain. In more subtle cases, flexion tests are required to elicit lameness. As the disease process becomes chronic, the range of motion is reduced with fibrous thickening of the joint capsule. Radiographic evaluation is necessary for positive confirmation of a number of disease entities. Arthroscopy is used to accurately assess the amount of damage to the articular cartilage and to establish a prognosis." (All thanks to Merck Vet Manual for this great overview! You can visit their site for more information!)
Okay, so some of these terms you might already be familiar with (words like chronic, prognosis, or acute), but "synovial effusion"? What on Earth?
To better understand these terms, the definitions are listed below:
Acute: Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.
Synovial: of, relating to, or secreting synovial fluid synovial membranes; also : lined with synovial membrane
Effusion: the escape of a fluid from anatomical vessels by rupture or exudation
Chronic: continuing or occurring again and again for a long time
Fibrous Thickening: Quite literally the increased growth of the joint capsule fibers.
Joint Capsule: a ligamentous sac that surrounds the articular cavity of a freely movable joint, is attached to the bones, completely encloses the joint, and is composed of an outer fibrous membrane and an inner synovial membrane — called also articular capsule, capsular ligament
Radiographic Evaluation: An assessment based on radiographic photographs. This can take place as an x-ray or gamma ray photograph.
Arthroscopy: The endoscopic method of examining the inside of a joint
Articular: of or relating to a joint
Articular Cartilage: cartilage that covers the articular surfaces of bones
Prognosis: the prospect of recovery as anticipated from the usual course of disease or peculiarities of the case
In English Please...
If you were to translate that to common colloquialisms, it would go a little bit like this:
" Arthritis generally results in pain and altered function of the joint. If the process is active or acute [occurs suddenly], there is usually synovial effusion[an escape of joint fluid], and the surrounding tissues are swollen and warm. In more severe cases, manipulation of the joint causes pain. In more subtle cases, flexion tests are required to elicit lameness. As the disease process becomes chronic [ a recurring problem], the range of motion is reduced with fibrous thickening [growth of fibers] of the joint capsule [a sac that encloses the joint]. Radiographic evaluation [think x-rays!] is necessary for positive confirmation of a number of disease entities. Arthroscopy [ see one done here] is used to accurately assess the amount of damage to the articular cartilage [cartilage surrounding the bones] and to establish a prognosis [prediction of the patient's outcome based on the diagnosis]."
To sum up, Arthritis sucks.
But have no fear! As Anna can attest to, Arthritis in equines does not always mean the end of the world! Stay tuned...