Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint (the point where two bones fit together). There are many types of arthritis and each one has its own cause and symptoms. Typically, all forms of arthritis are associated with symptoms that include pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and decreased range of motion in the joint that usually gets worse with age. Severe arthritis that affects the hands and arms may make it difficult to do daily tasks while arthritis that affects the knees or ankles may make it difficult to walk or stand. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of the hard tissue that covers and protects the ends of bones (cartilage). Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the lining of joints (synovium).
Risk factors for arthritis include a family history of arthritis, increasing age, previous joint injury, obesity and gender, as women are more likely than men to develop RA. Causes of other forms of arthritis include a build up of uric acid crystals in the joint, infections, or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus. Your doctor may use a physical exam, imaging, lab tests and video assessment of your joints to diagnosis arthritis. Imaging can include an X-ray and an MRI to get a detailed look at the joint and cartilage. Doctors may also perform arthroscopy, which uses a small video camera inserted into a small cut near the affected joint to obtain images of the affected area. Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are treatments that help reduce symptoms. These include pain medications, therapy and surgery. If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with arthritis, talk with a doctor to determine the best treatment plan.