There are many type of arthritis, a condition that primarily causes inflammation, pain and limited mobility in the joints. Symptoms of arthritis are caused by a breakdown of cartilage surrounding the joint, which normally acts like a shock absorber and prevents bones from rubbing together. Some types of arthritis are a result of regular or excessive wear and tear on the joints and cartilage surrounding the joints, while others are a result of metabolic or immune system abnormalities, infections or injury. Each type of arthritis has slightly different symptoms, causes and treatments.

What causes Arthritis?

Causes of arthritis are based on the type of arthritis an individual suffers from. Osteoarthritis, for example, is a result of wear and tear on the cartilage around joints or can arise after sustaining an injury. Gout, another form of arthritis, is a metabolic condition. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an overactive immune system. Other types of arthritis may be caused by infections, injury or other medical or physical conditions.

What are the symptoms of Arthritis?

There are numerous types of arthritis and each has slightly different symptoms. Osteoarthritis is characterized primarily by joint pain and stiffness during regular activities. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include pain, inflammation, swelling, and stiffness that occur in the same joints on both sides of the body. Some types of arthritis primarily cause pain with activity while others cause pain upon waking or all the time. In addition to pain, swelling and stiffness, other symptoms of arthritis may include tenderness, redness or warmth around the joint, limited joint function, and deformity. Certain forms of arthritis also cause problems in other areas of the body in addition to where the pain presents itself.

How is Arthritis diagnosed?

A medical professional will take a complete medical history and will perform a physical exam. Examination of the joints will occur, looking for swelling, tenderness, redness, pain with movement, deformity, and joint mobility (range of motion). X-rays are also often taken of the affected joints and the amount of joint fluid can also be tested by removing a small amount of fluid with a needle. If a type of arthritis other than osteoarthritis is suspected, blood and urine analyses may be ordered.

When should I seek care for Arthritis?

If you experience pain, swelling, irritation and limited mobility in your joints that does not go away after a few short days of rest, it is best to see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. Since there are many forms of arthritis, getting an early diagnosis will help to determine the best course of treatment and the most successful outcome. If pain or swelling is sudden or severe, you cannot move the affected joint, the joint is red or warm to the touch, or you experience fever or chills, immediate medical attention is recommended.

What will the treatment for Arthritis consist of?

Treatment for arthritis depends on the type of arthritis an individual is afflicted with, as well as the severity of the symptoms and which joints are affected. Most treatments are aimed at reducing pain, swelling, stiffness, and disability and cannot cure the condition. Treatments may include heat and cold therapy, physical therapy exercises, lifestyle and diet changes, anti-inflammatory medications, splinting, and rest. Exercise is an important component of most arthritis treatment and should include strength training, exercises to increase flexibility and range of motion, and low impact aerobic activity. Some types of arthritis require additional treatments, such as additional medications, water therapy, transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS), injections of joint fluid, and as a last resort, joint replacement surgery.

Which muscle groups/ joints are commonly affected by Arthritis?

Arthritis can affect almost any joint in the body, including those in the hips, neck, back, shoulder, elbow, fingers, wrists, knees, and ankles.

What type of results should I expect from the treatment of Arthritis?

Treatment of arthritis will vary by the type of arthritis and results will vary as well. Most forms of arthritis are chronic and the goal of treatment is to diminish pain, swelling and inflammation and restore normal range of motion in the joint. Some forms of arthritis can be completely cured. In some cases, treatment will be successful but will need to be periodically repeated as new flare-ups occur. Diagnosing and treating arthritis early can prevent permanent joint damage from occurring. Surgery to replace affected joints is generally successful if followed by proper rehabilitation.