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Bone And Joint Health Articles > Arthritis

Arthritis is a medical term that means joint inflammation. It is not one disease but a family of more than 100 diseases all of which result in swollen, stiff and painful joints. Not surprisingly, it is the Number One cause of bone and joint related health problems in the world.

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Of these, osteoarthritis is by far the more common, affecting approximately 10% of all American adults or 21 million Americans. An estimated 2.1 million people have rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis commonly affects the joints of the fingers, knees, hips, and spine. Other joints affected less frequently include the wrists, elbows, shoulders, and ankles. It begins with the breakdown of joint cartilage, resulting in pain and stiffness. Work-related repetitive injury and physical trauma may contribute to the development of OA.

Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include steady or intermittent joint pain, joint stiffness after periods of inactivity, swelling or tenderness in one or more joints and a crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone when the joint is used. Since early detection is a critical component of treatment, any presence of these symptoms should lead to a visit to the doctor.

Although the exact cause of osteoarthritis is not known, scientists believe that joint damage begins in response to physical wear and tear which can erode the cartilage that normally encases the ends of the bones in a joint and helps the joint move smoothly and easily.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis include age (65 years or older), gender (women are more likely), joint injury or overuse caused by physical labor or sport, obesity, joint mis-alignment and hereditary gene effects.

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect many different joints and, in some people, other parts of the body as well, including the blood, the lungs, and the heart. It is caused by the inflammation of the joint lining, called the synovium, resulting in pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth, and redness. The affected joint may also lose its shape, resulting in loss of normal movement. It also can cause inflammation of your tear glands, salivary glands, the lining of your heart and lungs, and the lungs themselves. As RA progresses, about 25% of people with the disease develop small lumps of tissue under the skin, called rheumatoid nodules. These rheumatoid nodules usually aren't painful.

Early diagnosis may reduce the pain, joint damage, and disability that occur in some RA patients.

Many factors may contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Genetic factors play a role. Environmental factors may also contribute to the cause of the disease. Researchers have found that rheumatoid arthritis can be triggered by an infection, possibly a virus or bacterium, in people who have an inherited tendency for the disease. Once rheumatoid arthritis develops, the body's natural immune system does not operate as it should; it attacks healthy joint tissue, initiating a process of inflammation and joint damage.

Other common types of arthritis include Ankylosing spondylitis, Bursitis, Fibromyalgia and Gout.

Arthritis treatments usually consist of a combination of medication, dietary changes, exercise, surgery and physical and occupational therapy. Alternative treatments like acupuncture and ayurveda are also gaining in popularity. Open, honest communication with your doctor is important so that you can receive the best care.

The best way to meet the many challenges of arthritis is with a positive outlook. Thanks to the large leaps being made in the understanding, care and treatment of arthritis, hobbies, lifestyle, sports and travel need not be compromised any longer.

For more Information on Arthritis and more check out our page General Arthritis.

Bone And Joint Health Articles > Arthritis