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Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are common conditions that cause pain, swelling, and limited movement. They affect joints and connective tissues around the body. Millions of people in the U.S. have some form of arthritis.
Arthritis means inflammation of a joint. A joint is where two or more bones meet. There are more than 100 different arthritis diseases. Rheumatic diseases include any condition that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or bones. Arthritis is usually chronic, which means that it is ongoing.
Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are more common in women than men. They are also often associated with old age. This is because the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, occurs more often in older adults. However, arthritis and other rheumatic diseases affect people of all ages.
The three most common forms of arthritis are:
Other forms of arthritis or related disorders include:
The cause of arthritis depends on the type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the joint over time or because of overuse. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma are caused by the body’s immune system attacking the body’s own tissues. Gout is caused by the buildup of crystals in the joints. Arthritis can be linked to genes. People with genetic marker HLA-B27 have a higher risk of ankylosing spondylitis. Many other forms of arthritis are idiopathic. This means that the cause is not known.
Some risk factors for arthritis that can’t be avoided or changed include:
Risk factors that may be avoided or changed include:
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each person. The most common symptoms include:
The symptoms of arthritis can be like other health conditions. Make sure to see your health care provider for a diagnosis.
The process starts with a medical history and a physical exam. Tests may also be done. These include blood tests such as:
Other tests may be done, such as:
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, your age, and your general health. It will also depend on how what type of arthritis you have, and how severe the condition is. A treatment plan is tailored to each person with his or her health care provider.
There is no cure for arthritis. The goal of treatment is often to limit pain and inflammation, and help ensure joint function. Treatment plans often use both short-term and long-term methods.
Short-term treatments include:
Long-term treatments include:
Arthritis treatment can include a team of health care providers, such as:
Because arthritis causes joints to degenerate over time, it can cause disability. It can cause pain and movement problems that cause a person to be less able to carry out normal daily activities and tasks.
Although there is no cure for arthritis, it is important to help keep joints functioning by reducing pain and inflammation. Work on a treatment plan with your health care provider that includes medication and therapy. Work on lifestyle changes that can improve your quality of life. Lifestyle changes include:
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your health care provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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