Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. Arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, but it can affect people of all ages, including children.
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis, signs and symptoms may include:
- Decreased range of motion
The two main types of arthritis — osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis — damage joints in different ways.
The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis involves wear-and-tear damage to a joint’s cartilage. This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can be hastened by a joint injury or infection. Osteoarthritis also causes changes in the bones and deterioration of the connective tissues that attach muscle to bone and hold the joint together.
In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, a tough membrane that encloses all the joint parts. This lining (synovial membrane) becomes inflamed and swollen. The disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Family history
- Previous joint injury
Arthritis treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. You may need to try several different treatments, or combinations of treatments, before you determine what works best for you.
Different lines of treatment include:
- Physical therapy
- Joint repair or replacement surgery
Normal wear and tear triggered due to increasing age is a leading cause of arthritis.
Although there’s no cure for arthritis, treatments have improved greatly in recent years and, for many types of arthritis, particularly inflammatory arthritis, there’s a clear benefit in starting treatment at an early stage.
You can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood sugar levels, exercising regularly, stretching, avoiding injury and quitting smoking.