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What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints. Joints are the parts where bones meet and move. Arthritis can affect any joint in your body. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. They include: 

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Gout

  • Lupus

If your symptoms are mild, medicines may be enough to ease pain and swelling. For more severe arthritis, you may need surgery. This can improve the condition of the joint. Or it can replace part or all of the joint.

What causes arthritis?

Cartilage is a smooth substance that protects the ends of your bones and provides cushioning. When you have arthritis, this cartilage breaks down and can no longer protect your bones. This can happen from an autoimmune disease. Or it can happen from wear and tear, infections, or injury. The bones rub against each other, causing pain and swelling. Over time, small pieces of rough or splintered bone (bone spurs) may develop. The joint's range of motion can become limited.

Front view of knee joint.
Healthy knee joint.
Front view of knee joint showing inflammation and arthritis.
Knee joint with arthritis.


Some of the more common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain and stiffness. These symptoms get worse with long periods of rest. They may also get worse from using a joint too long or too hard.

  • Loss of normal shape and motion. Joints may look swollen and be hard to move.

  • Sore, inflamed joints. They may look red and feel warm.

  • Grinding or popping noise. This happens with joint movement.

  • Severe tiredness (fatigue). You may feel tired all the time.

Reducing symptoms

You can help ease symptoms in these ways:

  • Losing weight

  • Exercising on a regular basis

  • Strengthening muscles around the joint to reduce the strain on the joint

  • Using hot and cold packs on your joints

  • Using over-the-counter and prescription medicines

Talk with your healthcare provider about the best treatments for your condition.

Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2021
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