What is arthritis?
The word arthritis means inflammation of the joint (“artho” meaning joint and “itis” meaning inflammation). Inflammation is a medical term describing pain, stiffness, redness and swelling. Arthritis is a disease that can involve any of the joints in the body, often occurring in the hip, knee, spine or other weight-bearing joints, but can also affect the fingers and other non-weight-bearing joints. Symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, swelling, stiffness and fatigue. Untreated inflammation can eventually lead to joint damage, destruction and disability. Some forms of arthritis can also affect the body’s internal organs.
Arthritis consists of more than 100 different conditions
Arthritis consists of more than 100 different conditions which range from relatively mild forms of tendinitis and bursitis to crippling systemic forms, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It includes pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and arthritis-related disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, that involve every part of the body. Other forms of the disease, such as gout, are almost never thought of as arthritis, while osteoarthritis is often thought to be the only form of this disease.
Joint pain is the most common denominator
The common denominator for all of these conditions is joint and musculoskeletal pain, which is why they are grouped together as 'arthritis.' Often this pain is a result of inflammation of the joint lining. Inflammation is involved in many forms of arthritis and is the body's natural response to injury. The warning signs presented by inflammation are redness, swelling, heat and pain. When a joint becomes inflamed, it may get any or all of these symptoms. This can prevent the normal use of the joint and therefore it can cause the loss of function of that joint.
Arthritis can affect anyone
Arthritis affects people of every age, gender and ethnic background. Genetics, age and lifestyle can all play a part in increasing one’s risk of developing arthritis. For instance, the likelihood of developing OA increases with age, a physically demanding job (e.g., athlete, heavy machinery operator) and/or previous joint injury.
Establishing an early diagnosis is critical to the outcome of the disease, since it only gets progressively worse and therapies work best when started as early as possible.
Learn more about common symptoms, warning signs, treatment and medications for various types of arthritis.