- Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints.
- Symptoms of Arthritis include pain, stiffness, and limited function of joints.
- People living with Arthritis include men and women, children, and adults.
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid Arthritis are common types of Arthritis.
- A rheumatologist is a medical arthritis expert.
- An earlier and accurate diagnosis can help to prevent irreversible damage and disability from joint disease.
Arthritis is a joint disorder featuring inflammation. A joint is an area of the body where two different bones meet. A joint function to move the body parts connected by its bones. Arthritis means inflammation of one or more joints.
Arthritis is frequently accompanied by joint pain. Joint pain is referred to as arthralgia. When four or more joints are involved, the Arthritis is referred to as polyarthritis. When two or three joints are involved, it is referred to as oligoarthritis. When only a single joint is involved, it is referred to as monoarthritis.
Types of Arthritis
There are many types of Arthritis (over 100 identified). The types of arthritis range from those related to wear and tear of cartilage (such as osteoarthritis) to those associated with inflammation resulting from a misdirected immune system (such as rheumatoid Arthritis). While osteoarthritis and rheumatoid Arthritis are common arthritis types, there are many other common and uncommon types of Arthritis. Different types of inflammatory Arthritis include
- psoriatic Arthritis,
- ankylosing spondylitis, and
- reactive Arthritis.
- Types of infectious Arthritis include septic arthritis and Lyme arthritis.
Together, the many types of Arthritis make up the most common chronic illness in the United States. Self-limited forms of Arthritis can occur in association with virus infections.
Joint pain can be caused by injury affecting any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons surrounding the joint. Injury can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, and bones within the joint. Pain is also a feature of joint inflammation (Arthritis, such as rheumatoid Arthritis and osteoarthritis) and infection, and extremely rarely, it can be a cause of cancer of the joint.
Symptoms and signs associated with joint pain can include:
- joint redness,
- joint swelling,
- joint tenderness,
- joint warmth,
- locking of the joint,
- loss of range of motion of the joint,
Symptoms and Signs OF Arthritis
- Stiffness of the joint can lead to poor function.
- Tenderness of the inflamed joint can be present with or without pain.
- When large joints are involved, such as the knee, there can be loss of cartilage with limitation of motion from the joint damage.
- When Arthritis affects the small joints in fingers, there can be bone growth and loss of hand grip and grip strength of the hand associated with stiffness.
- Arthritis of weight-bearing joints can lead to difficulty walking from poor joint function and arthritis pain.
Many of the forms of Arthritis, because they are rheumatic diseases, can cause symptoms that are affecting various organs of the body that do not directly involve the joints. Therefore, symptoms in some patients with certain forms of Arthritis can also include
- gland swelling (swollen lymph nodes),
- weight loss,
- feeling unwell, and
- even symptoms from abnormalities of organs such as the lungs, heart, or kidneys.
Causes of Arthritis
The causes of Arthritis depend on the form of Arthritis. Causes include
- injury (leading to osteoarthritis),
- metabolic abnormalities (such as gout with elevated uric acid blood levels and pseudogout with hypercalcemia),
- hereditary factors,
- the direct and indirect effect of infections (bacterial and viral), and
- a misdirected immune system with autoimmunity (such as in rheumatoid Arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus).
Arthritis is classified as one of the rheumatic diseases. These are conditions that are different individual illnesses, with differing features, treatments, complications, and prognoses. They are similar in that they tend to affect the joints, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons. Many have the potential to affect other internal body areas.
The significant risk factors for most forms of Arthritis are genes that are inherited from ancestors. Trauma-related Arthritis is related to the risk of injury from specific activities.
Treatment of Arthritis
The treatment of Arthritis is very dependent on the precise type of arthritis present. An accurate diagnosis increases the chances of successful treatment. Treatments available include physical therapy, home remedies, splinting, cold-pack application, paraffin wax dips, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medications ranging from over-the-counter pain-relieving medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to narcotics, immune-altering medications, biologic medications, and surgical operations. Pain from osteoarthritis of the knee can be relieved by hyaluronic acid injections. Rheumatoid Arthritis can require medications that suppress the immune system. Low back arthritis that is irritating nerves of the spine can require surgical repair. For more on treatments of particular forms of Arthritis, see the corresponding articles for Arthritis of interest.
The outlook for patients with Arthritis depends on its severity, complications, and whether there are non-joint manifestations of the disease. For example, rheumatoid Arthritis can affect the lungs, kidneys, eyes, etc. Chronic joint inflammation can lead to permanent damage to the joint and joint function loss, making movement difficult or impossible.
Since most Arthritis forms are inherited to some degree, there is no real way to prevent them. Arthritis that follows joint injury could be prevented by adhering to safety regulations and trying to avoid becoming injured. Arthritis related to infection (for example, septic Arthritis, Reactive Arthritis, Whipple’s disease) could be prevented by not becoming infected with the causative organism. The extent to which this is possible varies depending upon the individual condition.