Arthritis

Arthritis Summary
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and pseudogout.
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Arthritis facts

  • Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints.
  • Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints.
  • Arthritis sufferers include men and women, children and adults.
  • A rheumatologist is a medical arthritis expert.
  • Earlier and accurate diagnosis can help to prevent irreversible damage and disability.

What is arthritis? What causes arthritis?

Arthritis is a joint disorder featuring inflammation. A joint is an area of the body where two different bones meet. A joint functions to move the body parts connected by its bones. Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints.

Arthritis is frequently accompanied by joint pain. Joint pain is referred to as arthralgia.

There are many types of arthritis (over 100 identified, and the number is growing). The types range from those related to wear and tear of cartilage (such as osteoarthritis) to those associated with inflammation resulting from an overactive immune system (such as rheumatoid arthritis). Together, the many types of arthritis make up the most common chronic illness in the United States.

The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. Causes include injury (leading to osteoarthritis), metabolic abnormalities (such as gout and pseudogout), hereditary factors, the direct and indirect effect of infections (bacterial and viral), and a misdirected immune system with autoimmunity (such as in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus).

Arthritis is classified as one of the rheumatic diseases. These are conditions that are different individual illnesses, with differing features, treatments, complications, and prognoses. They are similar in that they have a tendency to affect the joints, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons, and many have the potential to affect other internal body areas.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/11/2012

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Learn what causes arthritis symptoms to flare up around your menstrual period.

Women's Arthritis Roller Coaster

Menstrual Periods & Arthritis

Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Why do many women with arthritis feel worsening symptoms before and during their monthly menstrual periods? During the course of any day in caring for women with arthritis, it is not uncommon for a number of them to complain of a monthly regular worsening of their joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. This is not just a coincidence.

Many forms of arthritis and rheumatic diseases are known to occur more frequently in women than in men. Moreover, it is not unusual for the initial presentation of these conditions to occur following a pregnancy. Why?

Researchers are finding that the immune system is influenced by signals from the female reproductive hormones. It seems that the levels of hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, as well as changes in these levels can promote autoimmunity. "Autoimmunity" is a condition whereby the immune system (which normally wards off foreign invaders of the body, such as infections) turns and attacks the body's own tissues, such as skin, joints, liver, lungs, etc. Autoimmune diseases typically feature inflammation of various tissues of the body.

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