What is Arthritis?Arthritis is a painful disease of the joints. There are many different kinds of arthritis with various causes, but they all lead to pain and inflammation of joints such as the hip, knee, or wrist. Arthritis affects people of all ages, races, and genders, but it is more common in women and older people. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Symptoms of arthritis include swelling, pain, and stiffness. They can occur in a single joint or throughout the body. It is common for symptoms to come and go, known as flares. In some kinds of arthritis, flares may be caused by specific triggers, such as exercise, stress, or an allergic reaction. By far the two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis happens when wear and tear on joints breaks down the cartilage between two moving bones. In a healthy person, cartilage cushions and lubricates the bones so they can glide over each other as they move. When the cartilage becomes thin or tears, the ends of bones rub and cause pain. In rheumatoid arthritis, the body's own immune system becomes confused and attacks joint cartilage, weakening it and causing inflammation. Treatment for arthritis depends on the specific type, but it may include:
- Avoiding arthritis triggers
- Hot or cold therapy, such as ice or hot packs
- Oral or injected medications, such as corticosteroids, NSAIDs, and biologics
- Physical therapy and gentle exercises
- Surgery to repair or replace damaged joints
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