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Helpful information about arthritis

What is arthritis ?

Many people start to feel pain and stiffness in their bodies over time. Sometimes their hands, knees, or shoulders get sore or hard to move and may become swollen. These people may have arthritis. Arthritis may be caused by inflammation of the tissue lining the joints. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Some signs of inflammation include redness, heat, pain, and swelling. Over time, in some types of arthritis, the joints involved can become severely damaged. In some diseases in which arthritis occurs, other organs—such as your eyes, your chest, or your skin—can also be affected.

What are the types of arthritis?

There are several types of arthritis. The two most common types are osteoarthritis (AH-stee-oh-ar-THRY-tis) and rheumatoid (ROO-mah-toyd) arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This condition usually comes with age and most often affects the fingers, knees, and hips. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows an injury to a joint. For example, a young man hurts his knee while playing soccer. Then, years after the knee is believed to be healed, arthritis develops in the man’s knee joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body’s own defense system doesn’t work properly. It affects joints and bones (often of the hands and feet) and may also affect internal organs and systems. A person with rheumatoid arthritis might feel sick or tired and might even have an occasional fever.

Another common type of arthritis, called “gout,” is caused by crystals that build up in the joints. It usually affects the big toe, but many other joints may be affected.

Do I have arthritis?

Most types of arthritis cause pain in your joints. You might have trouble moving around. Some kinds of arthritis can also affect different parts of your body. So, along with pain in your joints, you may:

  • have a fever
  • lose weight
  • have trouble breathing
  • get a rash or itch

However, keep in mind that these symptoms may also be signs of other illnesses besides arthritis.

What can I do?

See a doctor. Only a doctor can tell if you have arthritis or a related condition and what to do about it. It’s important not to wait.  You’ll need to tell the doctor how you feel and where you hurt. Many people use herbs or medicines that you can buy without a prescription for pain. You should tell your doctor if you do. The doctor will examine you and may take Xrays of your bones or joints. The doctor might also order blood tests that will help him or her decide what kind of arthritis you have.

 

Information obtained from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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