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What is arthritis?

The word arthritis literally means joint inflammation. It can occur from more than 100 different diseases. These diseases usually affect the area in or around joints, such as muscles and tendons. Some of these diseases can also affect other parts of the body, including the skin and internal organs. There are many types of arthritis. Most forms of arthritis are chronic, which means they may last a lifetime.

Arthritis affects people of all ages, but it most often comes on as a person gets older.

How does arthritis feel?

Arthritis usually causes stiffness, pain, swelling and fatigue of the joints. The severity varies from person to person, and even from day to day. In some people, only a few joints are affected and the impact may be small. In other people, the entire body may be affected.

The joints of the body are the site of much of the action in arthritis. Many types of arthritis show signs of joint inflammation: swelling, stiffness, tenderness, redness or warmth. These joint symptoms may be accompanied by weight loss, fever or weakness.

Rheumatoid arthritis

When these symptoms last for more than two weeks, chronic inflammatory disese, such as rheumatoid arthritis may be the cause.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) involves inflammation in the lining of the joints and/or other internal organs. RA typically affects many different joints. It can be chronic, which means it lasts a long time, and can be a disease of flares (active) and remissions (little or no activity).

Joint inflammation may also be caused by infection, which can lead to septic arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is one of the oldest and the most common type of arthritis; joint inflammation is not a prominent feature of this condition.

Osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease, is characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of bones. Cartilage breakdown causes bones to rub against each other, causing pain and loss of movement.

Most commonly affecting middle-aged and older people, OA can range from very mild to very severe. It affects hands and weight-bearing joints such as knees, hips, feet and the lower back.

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