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Arthritis - Questions and Answers

What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammation that occurs around one or more of the body’s joints -- the area where two bones meet. Because of the wide range of bones and joints in the body, there are many different types of arthritis that one can have. There are over one hundred known types of arthritis.

What causes arthritis?
In healthy joints, cartilage, which protects the joint and absorbs shock if pressure is put on the joint, is present. When cartilage begins to break down, arthritis may form. The inflammation associated with arthritis occurs because without the presence of cartilage, bones rub together at the joint. This rubbing together causes both pain and inflammation.

Joints may also become inflamed when the body experiences a broken bone, an infection such as a virus or bacteria, or has when an individual contracts and autoimmune disease. In the case of an autoimmune disease, the body may actually attack health tissue mistakenly.

What are the common types of arthritis?
Common forms of arthritis include:
Ankylosing spondylitis
Gonococcal arthritis
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis
Reactive arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis
Systemic lupus erythematosus

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurs in children, whereas rheumatoid arthritis occurs in adults.

Typical symptoms of arthritis can include:
Joint pain
Reduced ability to move a joint
A warm sensation around a joint

How is arthritis diagnosed?
If a patient is experiencing symptoms of arthritis, a health care professional will typically interview the patient about his or her medical history. He or she will also perform a medical exam and will attempt to identify problem areas.

In certain cases, blood tests may be administered to test for bacterial or virus infections that may be causing arthritis. In other cases, labs such as samples of joint fluid may be taken.

How is arthritis treated?
Because there are many contributing factors to arthritis, there are also a wide range of possible treatments. Treatments that doctors often recommend include:
Exercise programs that incorporate strength training, stretching, and endurance exercises
Physical therapy such as splits, orthotics, therapy in water, and massage
Lifestyle changes such as:
– Increased sleep and rest time
– Walking breaks to break up the amount of time you spend sitting
– Updates to the home to lessen the impact on the joints and to make motion easier. For example, a bar in the bathtub to help use your arms rather than your knees when getting out of the bath.
– Dietary changes: increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and vitamin E
– Losing weight, if necessary

Are there also medicines that will be prescribed for arthritis?
In terms of over the counter medications, pain relievers such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs are often recommended to help ease the pain associated with arthritis. Additionally, application of capsaicin cream over painful joints can be of help.

Doctors may also prescribe medication for arthritis. Some examples of prescribed medications include biologics, corticosteroids, and anti-rheumatic drugs, which are used to treat autoimmune arthritis.

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