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What is Arthritis? Common Questions Explained

Posted October 23, 2019 by Mark A Cipriani, Jr., MD


Arthritis is a broad term covering a group of diseases involving inflammation in your body’s joints. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body but most commonly involves the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, ankles, feet, neck, or back. Most types of arthritis cause pain and stiffness in and around the affected joints. Some types can also affect the immune system and even some internal organs of the body. Continue reading to learn more about arthritis.

What are the types of arthritis?

While there are many types of arthritis, by far the most common type is osteoarthritis. This usually affects people as they age and as their joints, specifically joint cartilage, wear down.

A less common type of arthritis is autoimmune or inflammatory arthritis. This occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the joints. Two familiar forms of autoimmune arthritis are rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis.

Crystalline arthritis is a form of arthritis caused by the abnormal formation of crystals in the joint. They can develop when certain substances are not properly absorbed or removed by your body. Gout is one form of crystalline arthritis.

How does arthritis feel?

People who develop arthritis may experience symptoms of swelling, pain and decreased motion of the affected joint(s). The location of the pain, however, depends on the person – for some people only a few joints are affected, others it may affect the whole body. As it progresses, arthritis can make it harder to do the movements you rely on for day to day activities.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain around the affected joint(s)
  • Swollen or stiff joint(s)
  • Joint(s) that look red or feel warm to the touch
  • Trouble bending or straightening the joint(s)
  • Difficulty doing everyday tasks

Symptoms can be constant or may come and go and can range from mild to severe.

What are the causes?

While a single cause of arthritis is not known, there are many risk factors that can raise your chances of developing arthritis, including:

  • Age: Many types of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, become more common as we age.
  • Gender: Many types of arthritis are more common among women, however crystalline arthritis related to gout is more common in men.
  • Genetics: Certain types of arthritis can be linked to genes, it is important to know your family history such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Excess weight: Extra body weight increases the stress on weight bearing joints like the hips, knees, and ankles making it more likely for arthritis to develop.
  • Injuries: Injuries to the joints throughout your life can cause joint damage which can become arthritic as you age.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Your doctor or a specialist may:

  • Talk with you about your symptoms.
  • Ask about your family history.
  • Perform a physical exam.
  • Request imaging of the affected areas, which can include X-rays, CT, MRI or ultrasound.
  • Take samples of your joint fluid to test.

How is arthritis managed?

While arthritis cannot be cured, there are many treatments that can help keep you moving and living life as normally as possible including:

  • Physical Therapy.
  • Medications to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Bracing or splinting of the affected joint(s).
  • Joint injections.
  • Surgery to repair, replace, or fuse affected joint(s).

The treatment of autoimmune arthritis typically involves treatments that target the immune system.

When to see a doctor?

If you have questions or concerns about joint symptoms you are experiencing it is best to discuss with your doctor. If you have any of these symptoms consistently, you should take the time to meet with your doctor to get help:

  • Joint pain, swelling or redness that does not go away.
  • Your symptoms are limiting your daily activities.
  • Your symptoms worsen quickly.
  • Your relatives have autoimmune disorders.
  • Your relatives have other arthritis related conditions.

How can you manage your arthritis?

Here are some things you can do to keep your condition in check:

  • Be active: Exercise can help improve movement, lessen pain and has many more whole body benefits. Low-impact exercises like yoga or water aerobics are great for keeping your joints safe.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can affect your joints and increase your risk of developing arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.
  • Don't put off treatment: If you see the signs, going to a doctor sooner rather than later is to your benefit. You can feel better faster and might be able to avoid permanent joint damage.

At Summa Health, our Orthopedic Institute is here to help you get the treatment you need to recover and get your joints moving the way you need them to. Our orthopedic specialists treat all conditions for bones, joints, cartilage, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Contact us today by phone at 330.835.5533 or online to schedule an appointment.

Mark A Cipriani, MD

Mark A Cipriani, MD

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