What is arthritis? Arthritis can be a debilitating condition that affects the tissues, bones and ligaments of the joints of the body and can cause significant pain and impairment. Arthritis happens when the protective cartilage covering the ends of the bones starts to breakdown. This breakdown creates spaces between the bones and the cartilage and makes movement difficult.
The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (which is also called degenerative joint disease) and rheumatic arthritis (which is an autoimmune disorder that tends to occur more often in older adults). Osteoarthritis is generally a normal part of aging, although it can happen at any time. Osteoarthritis is the most common forms of arthritis and most cases involve normal wear and tear on the joints.
Osteoarthritis usually affects the knees, hips and hands. Some people can have normal joint function with this condition, but others will experience significant pain and impairment. The symptoms of osteoarthritis include swelling, stiffness, inflammation, deformity of the joints. The most common forms of arthritis include:
Inflammation is another characteristic of arthritis. While inflammation may occur at any point along the joints, it is most common in those joints where the cartilage is exposed. Common types of inflammation include: bursitis, gout, synovitis, patellar tendonitis, meniscusitis, tendinitis and impingement syndrome. Inflammation can occur anywhere along the joints and can be accompanied by redness, warmth and tenderness. When the cartilage is inflamed, it can lead to swelling, deformity and stiffness.
Other signs and symptoms include swelling and edema in the tissues surrounding the joints. This may lead to an increase in pressure around the joint, which can cause increased friction and possibly damage to the joint. Physical examination may help determine the diagnosis and the correct treatment. Diagnosis of arthritis can often be confirmed through blood tests as well as X-rays and laboratory testing.
Medications used to treat arthritis are available over the counter or by a medical health care provider. Some medications help relieve symptoms and decrease inflammation, while others are used to slow the progression of the disease. Using weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips and hands, frequently during the day can help prevent the onset of arthritis in these areas. A doctor may prescribe one of a range of anti-inflammatory medications that can be used in conjunction with lifestyle changes to help reduce the possibility of developing arthritis in these weight-bearing joints.