Arthritis is a condition in which joints are affected by inflammation and swelling. There are more than 100 conditions that affect the tissue in and around the joint. The joints affected vary by the underlying cause. All age groups can be affected. 50% of people over age 65 are affected by some form of arthritis, most commonly osteoarthritis. However, arthritis, specifically juvenile idiopathic arthritis, can also occur in children. Arthritis may be related to other medical issues. Since it limits activity, it may contribute to and/or worsen heart disease, diabetes, obesity and functional decline, resulting in falls and osteoporosis.
There are a variety of causes of arthritis. The most common cause is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative condition. Other common causes are related to immune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, trauma and traumatic events. Less common causes are infection and conditions related to cancer.
Risk factors for arthritis include being overweight; encountering infections such as bacteria, viruses and fungi; experiencing trauma; performing repetitive motions; and smoking. The risk of developing arthritis can also be higher depending on a person’s gender. Women are more prone to this condition than men. Risk can also be exacerbated by an inactive lifestyle or genetics.
The symptoms vary with the cause of the arthritis. These symptoms may start suddenly or gradually. They may be intermittent or constant. The number and location of affected joints vary by cause. For example, trauma or infection may affect an isolated joint while non-joint symptoms may be related to an underlying disease. Symptoms can be related to the skin, intestines, urinary system, blood vessels and fever.
It is important to evaluate the cause of the arthritis to develop an appropriate treatment plan. If conservative measures don’t provide relief, surgery may be taken into consideration.