Arthritis isn’t a single disease; the term refers to joint pain or joint disease, and the term literally means joint inflammation. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. There are different types of arthritis. In some diseases in which arthritis occurs, other organs, such as your eyes, heart, or skin, can also be affected and it is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. It’s most common among women, and although it’s not a disease of aging, some types of arthritis occur in older people more than younger people.
Common arthritic symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and diminished range of motion in joints. Symptoms vary from mild to severe and may come and go. Some may stay about the same for years, but symptoms can also progress and get worse over time. It can result in chronic pain, difficulty performing daily activities and make walking and climbing stairs painful and grueling.
There are several types of arthritis. Common ones include:
- Gout is caused by crystals that build up in the joints. It usually affects the big toe, but many other joints may be affected.
- Osteoarthritis usually comes with age and most often affects the fingers, knees, and hips. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows a joint injury. For example, you might have badly injured your knee when young and develop arthritis in your knee joint years later.
- Psoriatic Arthritis can occur in people who have psoriasis (scaly red and white skin patches). It affects the skin, joints, and areas where tissues attach to bone.
- Reactive Arthritis is pain or swelling in a joint that is caused by an infection in your body. You may also have red, swollen eyes and a swollen urinary tract.
- Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body’s own defense system doesn’t work properly. It affects joints and bones (often of the hands and feet), and may also affect internal organs and systems. You may feel sick or tired, and you may have a fever.
Been diagnosed with arthritis?
The first step is to get an accurate diagnosis of what’s causing your joint pain. Talk to your primary care doctor about your symptoms. You may be referred to a rheumatologist or orthopedist, doctors who specialize in arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Many things can be done to preserve joint function, mobility and quality of life. Learning about the disease and treatment options, making time for physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are essential.
Pay attention to your joints, whether sitting, standing or engaging in activity.
- Keep your joints moving. Do daily, gentle stretches that move your joints through their full range of motion.
- Use good posture. A physical therapist can show you how to sit, stand and move correctly.
- Know your limits. Balance activity and rest, and don’t overdo.
In addition, lifestyle changes such as managing your weight are important for easing pain. Being overweight can increase complications of arthritis and contribute to arthritis pain. Making incremental, permanent lifestyle changes resulting in gradual weight loss is often the most effective method of weight management.