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Frequently Asked Questions

Arthritis FAQ

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a term used to describe a group of over 100 diseases characterized by inflammation in the joints or other areas of the body. Inflammation is a medical term that describes pain, stiffness, redness and swelling. Left unchecked, inflammation can lead to significant and often irreparable damage to the affected areas, resulting in loss of function and disability.

Arthritis is divided into two broad types (inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis) and is a chronic condition, affecting people on an ongoing, constant or recurring basis over months, years, even a lifetime. 

For more information, visit About Arthritis.

Who gets arthritis?

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. Today, 1 in 5 Canadians have arthritis.  While it is largely an adult disease, it can also affect children. 1 in 2 adults age 65 and over have arthritis.

For more information on who is affected by particular types of arthritis, please see our individual disease descriptions.

Is arthritis serious?

Arthritis is very serious. It is actually Canada’s most prevalent chronic health condition. Left untreated, it can lead to significant and often irreparable damage to your joints, and in some cases your skin, organs and other areas of the body, resulting in pain, fatigue, loss of function and disability that can present considerable challenges to your quality of life. There is no cure for most forms, so once you have been diagnosed, arthritis is with you for life. 

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Your doctor will be able to provide a diagnosis based on your medical history, physical examination and diagnostic tests such as blood tests and x-rays. Early diagnosis is critical to successful treatment outcomes, so if you feel you may have arthritis symptoms, it is very important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible to obtain a diagnosis. 

For more information, see our Signs of Arthritis. 

Is there a cure for arthritis?

There is no cure for arthritis – YET – but there is hope. When you are diagnosed early and start the right treatment plan, you can take control of your disease and help reduce or prevent damage to your joints and other tissues.

Meanwhile, the Arthritis Society’s funded scientists are working towards permanent solutions. To find out more about how your support is helping get us closer to a future without arthritis, visit our research page.

Can arthritis kill you?

Left untreated, advanced forms of arthritis can eventually prove fatal and some forms such as diffuse scleroderma can prove fatal even with treatment. But even in moderate cases, most forms of arthritis can significantly erode your quality of life, especially if they are left undiagnosed or untreated for prolonged periods. Irreparable damage can occur in just a matter of weeks from first symptoms, which is why it’s so important to get diagnosed and put on a treatment plan as quickly as possible, especially for inflammatory forms of the disease.

 For more information, see our Signs of Arthritis page.