Arthritis is one of the most common health problems in the world and the number one cause of disability in the United States – around 50 million Americans have arthritis. Arthritis cause joint pain and stiffness and typically worsens with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that targets the lining of joints.
When cartilage breaks down in your bones, it causes the lining of your joints to become inflamed. As the cartilage becomes more damaged, bones are exposed, thicken and form bony growths. The bone rubbing against bone causes joint pain.
If you have arthritis, you may experience:
- Swelling or stiffing in joints lasting several weeks
- Limited function and movement of joints
- Redness and/or warmth at joints
- Joint tenderness
While the exact causes of arthritis are unclear, there are factors that can increase your risk.
- Being female
- Some hereditary conditions
- Previous joint injury
- Being overweight or obese
- Diseases that change the structure and function of cartilage (such as gout)
There is no cure for arthritis, but there are treatments available that can help reduce your pain and promote joint movement. Treatment may include medication, physical therapy, self-care, exercise or surgery depending on the type of arthritis you have. Occupational therapy can help you learn better ways to do your daily activities and prevent strain on your joints. Medication might include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as Aleve or corticosteroid injections. Some of the discomfort of arthritis can also be reduced through adopting a healthy lifestyle, using simple self-care techniques (such as using heating pads and ice packs) and using assistive devices (such as canes and walkers) to help protect your joints and improve your ability to do daily tasks.
Arthritis can’t necessarily be prevented since some causes are out of your control (such as age, family history and gender), but there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting painful joints.
- Control your weight
- Eat fish
- Avoid injury
- Protect your joints
- See your doctor regularly