Arthritis

What is arthritis?

Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are characterized by pain, swelling, and limited movement in joints and connective tissues in the body. According to the CDC, nearly 50 million people in the U.S. have some form of arthritis or chronic joint symptoms. Arthritis, which literally means inflammation of a joint (where two or more bones meet), actually refers to more than 100 different diseases. Rheumatic diseases include any diseases that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints or other supportive body structures, such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are often mistakenly associated with old age because osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis) occurs more often among elderly persons. However, arthritis and other rheumatic diseases affect people of all ages and are more common in women than men. Arthritis is usually chronic, which means that it rarely changes, or it progresses slowly. Specific causes for most forms of arthritis are not yet known.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

The following are the most common symptoms of arthritis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Swelling in one or more joints
  • Continuing or recurring pain or tenderness in a joint
  • Difficulty using or moving a joint in a normal manner
  • Warmth and redness in a joint

The symptoms of arthritis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

What are the most common types of arthritis?

The three most prevalent forms of arthritis include:

Osteoarthritis

The most common type of arthritis. It is a chronic disease involving the joints, particularly the weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip, and spine. Osteoarthritis is characterized primarily by the destruction of cartilage and narrowing of the joint space. It can also include bone overgrowth, spur formation, and impaired function. It occurs in most people as they age, but also may occur in young people as a result of injury or overuse.

Fibromyalgia

A chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis

An inflammatory disease that involves the lining of the joint (synovium). The inflammation may affect all of the joints.

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