What is Arthritis?

What is Arthritis?

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Arthritis is a term used to refer to a group of over 100 diseases relating to the joints in the body. The body parts that make up the joints, where bones meet, include the wrists, shoulders, fingers, hips, and knees. Arthritis is typically more common among older adults and women. With that said, it is not uncommon for young children, teens, and adults to suffer from arthritis. In fact, around 1 in 5 adults suffer from some form of the disease, making it fairly common.

Categorization and Types

There are multiple diseases related to arthritis, and they fall within a range of categories including degenerative arthritis, inflammatory arthritis, infectious arthritis, and metabolic arthritis. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid.

Osteoarthritis occurs as cartilage wears away, causing bones to rub against each other resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling. Rheumatoid, on the other hand, is a chronic inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks its own tissues. It can affect the joints and other parts of the body such as the skin, lungs, and even the heart.

Causes and Common Symptoms

Not much is known about arthritis, therefore with many forms of the disease the cause remains uncertain. A number of factors can raise your chances of suffering from arthritis, though. These include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Genetic markers
  • Weight gain or excessive weight
  • Previous injuries on or near a joint
  • Certain types of infections

Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness
  • Redness and swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty completing every day tasks
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, and anemia in certain cases

Diagnosis

In order to diagnose arthritis you must see your primary care physician who will perform a physical checkup for symptoms and perhaps blood work or imaging scans. For people with severe symptoms, scheduling an appointment with a rheumatologist might be the best option as it can lead to a quicker diagnosis.

Treatment

Lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and low-impact physical activities such as swimming can help people with arthritis. Additionally, your doctor might prescribe medication such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), painkillers, or steroids. Physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, massages, and in some cases surgery can also help ease symptoms and difficulties from the condition.