What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term for more than 100 diseases that cause inflammation, pain, stiffness and swelling of joints. Common types of arthritis include:
  • Osteoarthritis - an ongoing, progressive disease that affects the joints as cartilage breaks down over time. Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis - an autoimmune disease that affects the joints of the body with episodes of painful inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis also affects other organs of the body and can result in the destruction of joints, disability, and, in severe cases, life-threatening complications.

  • Septic arthritis - arthritis caused by the infection of a joint by microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi.

Complications of all forms of arthritis can be serious and include destruction of the joints, leading to disability. Rheumatoid arthritis and septic arthritis can also lead to serious or life-threatening complications that can affect almost any organ in the body.

Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of arthritis, such as inflammation, pain, stiffness, and swelling of joints. Early diagnosis and treatment can minimize discomfort and reduce the risk of serious complications.


What are the symptoms of arthritis?

The types and severity of symptoms of arthritis can vary depending on the specific type of arthritis. The hallmark symptoms of all forms of arthritis include:

  • Joint inflammation and warmth

  • Joint pain

  • Joint stiffness

  • Joint swelling

Additional sympto... Read more about arthritissymptoms


What causes arthritis?

The underlying cause of arthritis varies depending on the specific type:

  • Osteoarthritis is caused by injury or wear and tear of the cartilage over time. Cartilage is a smooth, slippery tissue that protects the ends of bones and helps bones to move easily without damaging bone tissue.

  • The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis Read more about arthritiscauses


How is arthritis treated?

Arthritis treatment plans use a multifaceted approach and are individualized to the specific type of arthritis and the stage of advancement of the disease, as well as your age, medical history, and coexisting diseases or conditions. There is no cure for osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but with early recognition and treatment, it is possible to minimize or delay joint damage and complica... Read more about arthritistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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Treatments for any type of arthritis are largely the same.