Arthritis (general)

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is inflammation in the joints. This inflammation can be isolated or it can be widespread, depending on the type of arthritis is present. Currently, there are more than 100 disorders in the rheumatic classification that cause joint inflammation. This inflammation causes stiffness, pain and possible swelling in the joints.

Arthritis does not just affect the joints in the affected area. This disease can also affect the structures in the area that support the joint, like muscles, tendons, ligament, and possibly even the bone. In severe cases, arthritis can even affect internal organs in the affected area.


What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

The symptoms of this disease depend on the type of arthritis that a person has.

Symptoms include

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Radiating discomfort
  • Possible joint deformity

Arthritis Causes

Arthritis can be caused by wear-and-tear damage to the cartilage on the joints. When the cartilage wears down enough, the bones begin to grind together, causing pain and limited movement. When the immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, this can also cause arthritis (the swelling of that lining).

Family history, age, gender, and obesity are all risk factors for developing arthritis. If you have a family history of arthritis, you may be prone to developing it later on in life. Older people tend to develop various kinds of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is more commonly developed in women, while men are more likely to develop another form of arthritis known as gout. Obesity puts more stress on your joints, especially the spine, hips, and knees, which can also lead to arthritis. People with a history of joint pain (perhaps through a sports injury) are also more likely to develop arthritis where the injury occurred.

Some types of arthritis are believed to result from both a genetic predisposition to the disease, and an environmental cause – for example a toxin or virus.

How is Arthritis Treated?

The treatment for arthritis depends greatly on the type, and sub-type, of arthritis present.

Treatment includes

  • Exercise
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Pain medications
  • Alternative therapies
  • Massage
  • Immuno-suppressant medications
  • Surgery
  • Joint replacement surgery
  • Surgery to remove damaged tissue

Your doctor will carefully evaluate your symptoms to determine what the right treatment is for your specific situation.

Arthritis Prevention

While arthritis cannot be completely prevented, there are ways to reduce your risk of developing it. You can do this a number of ways, some of which include eating fish (as the special oils and vitamins in fish reduces inflammation in the body), maintaining a healthy weight, using the right safety equipment when playing sports, and limiting the strain on your joints. Lifting heavy objects with your knees and hips, as opposed to your back, can also help reduce every day strains on your body. Avoid sitting for long periods of time and if that’s not an option, be sure you have proper support for your arms, legs, and back.

Eating a diet low in sugar, purines and alcohol is also important, as this can significantly reduce your risk of certain types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Last Reviewed:
September 12, 2016
Last Updated:
April 10, 2018