Arthritis, or more specifically osteoarthritis, is a painful condition that develops when joint surfaces begin to degrade and break down, leaving bare bone ends exposed and resulting in inflammation, stiffness and loss of mobility in the joint. While arthritis can affect any joint, it occurs most commonly in the knees, hips, spine and neck, ankles, wrists and hands. Arthritis can affect anyone at any age, but it is much more common as we age. Another type of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the immune system attacks healthy joint tissue.
Arthritis can develop as a result of traumatic injury or disease that affects the joints, and it can also occur following surgery. Most osteoarthritis develops in people as they age and years of wear and tear break down the joint surfaces.
Osteoarthritis causes symptoms like pain and swelling in the joints, warmth and tenderness in the area above joints, decreased range of motion, and stiffness, especially after a period of inactivity. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and if left untreated, they can eventually have a serious impact on your quality of life.
Arthritis treatment begins with a thorough evaluation to determine your specific symptoms and the extent of the disease. Medications can help decrease pain and inflammation, and physical therapy, aquatics and therapeutic exercise can help keep joints flexible and restore mobility. Lifestyle changes like losing weight can also help by decreasing added strain on the joints, and assistive devices like canes and walkers can help you stay mobile and also decrease strain and discomfort. In more severe cases, corticosteroid joint injections can help relieve inflammation at the source. If joint surfaces are badly affected, joint replacement surgery may be considered.
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