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What Is Arthritis?

Image of healthy knee joint

Image of knee joint with arthritis

Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints (the parts where bones meet and move). It can affect any joint in your body. There are many types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthrtitis. If your symptoms are mild, medications may be enough to reduce pain and swelling. For more severe arthritis, surgery may be needed to improve the condition of the joint.

What Causes Arthritis?

Cartilage is a smooth substance that protects the ends of your bones. When you have arthritis, this cartilage breaks down and can no longer protect your bones. The bones rub against each other, causing pain and swelling. Over time, bone spurs (small pieces of rough or splintered bone) may develop, and the joint's range of motion can become limited.

Symptoms

Image of man swimming

Some of the more common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain and stiffness. Pain and stiffness get worse with long periods of rest or using a joint too long or too hard.

  • Joints that have lost normal shape and motion.

  • Tender, inflamed joints. They may look red and feel warm.

  • Grinding or popping noise with joint movement. 

  • Feeling tired all the time.

Reducing Symptoms

Following a healthy lifestyle by losing weight and exercising can help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis. Medications can be very helpful for rheumatoid arthritis.  

Online Medical Reviewer: Chamberlain, Kevin, DO
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 8/16/2013
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