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What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints. Joints are the parts where bones meet and move. It can affect any joint in your body. There are many types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and lupus. If your symptoms are mild, medicines may be enough to ease pain and swelling. For more severe arthritis, you may need surgery to improve the condition of the joint or replace part or all of the joint.

 

Front view of knee joint.

 

Front view of knee joint showing inflammation and arthritis.

 

 

What causes arthritis?

Cartilage is a smooth substance that protects the ends of your bones and provides cushioning. When you have arthritis, this cartilage breaks down and can no longer protect your bones. This can happen from an autoimmune disease. Or it can happen from wear and tear, infections, or trauma. The bones rub against each other, causing pain and swelling. Over time, small pieces of rough or splintered bone (bone spurs) may develop. The joint's range of motion can become limited.

Symptoms

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 ease symptoms of osteoarthritis. Strengthening muscles around the affected joint may will reduce the strain on the joint. Hot and cold packs may help. Over-the-counter and prescription medicines can be very helpful for arthritis. Talk with your healthcare provider about the best treatments for your condition.

Online Medical Reviewer: Hanrahan, John, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Horowitz, Diane, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2017
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.