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Arthritis FAQs

Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Arthritis is commonly caused by inflammation in the lining of the joints, which in addition to pain, may result in redness, heat, swelling and loss of movement in the affected joints. Over time, joints affected by arthritis may become severely damaged. There are different types of arthritis, and depending on the cause, may affect people of different ages. Some types of arthritis may cause to damage to other organs of the body in addition to the joints.

Osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in older individuals, however it sometimes develops in athletes from overuse of a joint or after an injury. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men and it usually develops in individuals over the age of 40.

The symptoms of arthritis are commonly caused by damage to the joint, which typically develops from injury or overuse. The actual cause of an individual case of arthritis depends on the type of the disease, and may be a result of excessive wear-and-tear or an immune system disorder that causes the body to attack its own joints.

Types of arthritis include:

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It develops as the cartilage protecting the bones of a joint wears down over time. It occurs more frequently in older individuals, however it sometimes develops in athletes from overuse of a joint or after an injury. It commonly affects the fingers, knees, lower back and hips and is often treated with medication and certain forms of exercise and physical therapy.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disorder caused by the body attacking its own healthy tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, and in addition to joint pain and inflammation, it sometimes affects other organs of the body including the skin, eyes, heart, lungs and blood vessels. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men and it usually develops in individuals over the age of 40.

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that cause painful, swollen, red and inflamed joints. Gout is called by a build-up of uric acid within the body that forms crystals within the joints and surrounding tissues. This build-up of crystals causes acute pain and swelling that commonly affects the joint of big toe, but can also occur in the feet, ankle, knees and hands. The symptoms of gout often appear suddenly and without warning, often in the middle of the night.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic Arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects people who have psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by red and scaly patches of skin. Psoriatic arthritis is considered an autoimmune disorder and causes joint inflammation, stiffness and pain that may affect the fingers, toes, feet and lower back.

The most common symptoms associated with arthritis include pain, swelling and stiffness of the affected joint. However, some patients may also experience fever, fatigue, and dry eyes and mouth, depending on which type of arthritis they have.

Diagnosing arthritis depends on the type of disease, but usually involves diagnostic tests and imaging exams to evaluate the affected areas of the body. Tests to diagnose arthritis often include blood, urine and joint fluid tests, along with X-rays or MRI imaging exams. A doctor may also use arthroscopy to assess damage within the actual joint.

Treatment for arthritis may include medication to control pain, minimize inflammation and slow the progression of joint damage. Exercise and physical therapy may also be effective at keeping joints flexible. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to repair tendons or replace damaged joints. In addition to medical treatment, some forms of arthritis may respond to lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating a healthy diet and exercise. Heat and cold therapy may also relieve pain and swelling in joints and assistive devices such as canes or walkers may assist individuals with arthritis with mobility.

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