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Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. Joints are places in the body where bones come together, such as the knee, wrist, fingers, toes, and hips. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful, degenerative joint disease that often involves the:
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Neck
  • Lower back
  • Small joints of the hands.
OA usually develops in joints that are injured by repeated overuse in the performance of a particular job or a favorite sport or from carrying around excess body weight. Eventually, this injury or repeated impact thins or wears away the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in the joint so that the bones rub together, causing a grating sensation. Joint flexibility is reduced, bony spurs develop, and the joint swells. Usually, the first OA symptom a person has is pain that worsens following exercise or immobility. Treatment usually includes:
  • Analgesics, topical creams, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (known as NSAIDs)
  • Appropriate exercises or physical therapy
  • Joint splinting
  • Joint replacement surgery for seriously damaged larger joints, such as the knee or hip.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that usually involves the:
  • Hands
  • Wrists
  • Elbows
  • Shoulders
  • Knees
  • Feet
  • Ankles.
An autoimmune disease is one in which the body releases enzymes that attack its own healthy tissues. In RA, these enzymes destroy the linings of joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, deformity, and reduced movement and function. People with RA also may have systemic symptoms, such as:
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Eye inflammation
  • Anemia
  • Subcutaneous nodules (bumps under the skin)
  • Pleurisy (a lung inflammation).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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