Nearly any joint in the body can become affected by different types of arthritis, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling, and other joint-related symptoms such as redness, warmth and tenderness.

Arthritis is an umbrella term meaning “joint inflammation”, encompassing more than 100 diseases of the joints1, and is the most common cause of disability in the United States affecting approximately 46 million adults, which is nearly 1 in 5 adults, and 300,000 children2.

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Certain types of arthritis can affect other areas of the body besides the joints, such as:

  • The skin or internal organs
  • Some arthritis types are accompanied by fever, rash or extreme tiredness
  • Inflammation can lead to tissue damage if it occurs for prolonged time periods.

If left untreated, this combination of symptoms can lead to immobility and difficulty in performing everyday tasks, or potentially more severe results.

Treatment for any type of arthritis begins with a proper diagnosis; an early diagnosis is often the key to long-term success in treatment. Treatment plans will be different for each patient, but they often include a combination of exercise programs, physical therapy, and medications. Each plan should aim to help control pain while maintaining mobility and preventing irreversible damage in the joints.

Arthritis is not a selective disease, affecting men and women, children and adults. It is also not just a disease of the elderly: more than half of patients suffering from arthritis are under 65 years of age2. The specific causes, symptoms, and treatments will vary depending on the individual and the type of arthritis.

Most types of arthritis can be classified into one of two groups: degenerative arthritis or inflammatory arthritis.

References:

  1. Arthritis in General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov. Updated October 20, 2010. Accessed January 2011.
  2. Arthritis Prevalence: A Nation in Pain. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org. Updated May 13, 2009. Accessed December 2010.
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Written by Grant Cooper, MD
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