Arthritis

If you feel pain and stiffness in your body or have trouble moving around, you might have arthritis.

If you feel pain and stiffness in your body or have trouble moving around, you might have arthritis. Most kinds of arthritis cause pain and swelling in your joints. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Over time, a swollen joint can become severely damaged. Some kinds of arthritis can also cause problems in your organs, such as your eyes or skin.

Types of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It's often related to aging or to an injury.
  • Autoimmune arthritis happens when your body's immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of this kind of arthritis.
  • Juvenile arthritis is a type of arthritis that happens in children.
  • Infectious arthritis is an infection that has spread from another part of the body to the joint.
  • Psoriatic arthritis affects people with psoriasis.
  • Gout is a painful type of arthritis that happens when too much uric acid builds up in the body. It often starts in the big toe.

There are likely many genes and combinations of genes that predispose people to rheumatic diseases. Some have been identified.

Different types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases have different signs and symptoms. In general, people who have arthritis feel pain and stiffness in one or more joints. Pain and stiffness may be accompanied by tenderness, warmth, redness in a joint, and/or difficulty using or moving a joint normally. 

The diagnosis of a rheumatic disease may be made by a general practitioner or a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. Based on the findings of the history and physical exam, the doctor may order laboratory tests and x rays or other imaging tests to help confirm a diagnosis.

Treatments for arthritis and rheumatic diseases vary depending on the specific disease or condition; however, treatment generally includes the following:

  • Exercise. Physical activity can reduce joint pain and stiffness and increase flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance. A doctor or physical therapist can recommend a safe, well-rounded exercise program. People with arthritis should speak with their doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
  • Diet. Although there is not a specific diet that helps arthritis, a well-balanced diet, along with exercise, helps people manage their body weight and stay healthy. Diet is especially important for people who have gout. People with gout should avoid alcohol and foods that are high in purines, such as organ meats (liver, kidney), sardines, anchovies, and gravy.
  • Medications. A variety of medications are used to treat rheumatic diseases. The type of medication depends on the specific disease and the individual patient. The medications used to treat most rheumatic diseases do not provide a cure, but rather limit the symptoms of the disease. In some cases, especially when a person has rheumatoid arthritis or another type of inflammatory arthritis, the medication may slow the course of the disease and prevent further damage to joints or other parts of the body.