Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis caused by the wearing down of the cartilage that protects the bones of a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition caused by an inflammation in the lining of the joints. Both forms of arthritis cause pain, tenderness, and swelling, and may result in loss of movement in the affected joints. Over time, joints affected by arthritis may become severely damaged. Arthritis occurs more frequently in older individuals, however it sometimes develops in athletes from overuse of a joint or after an injury. It can however, affect people of any age, including children.

In addition to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, there are other types of arthritis, and depending on the cause, may affect people of different ages. Gout is a form of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid within the body, that causes painful, swollen, red and inflamed joints. Psoriatic arthritis affects people who have psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by red and scaly patches of skin. Psoriatic arthritis is considered an autoimmune disorder and causes joint inflammation, stiffness and pain.

Diagnosis of Arthritis

Arthritis is diagnosed through a physical examination, diagnostic tests and imaging exams to evaluate the affected areas of the body. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • Joint fluid testing
  • X-rays
  • MRI scans

An arthroscopy may also be performed to assess damage within the joints.

Treatment for Arthritis

Treatment for arthritis varies based on the type and symptoms. Treatment may include medication to control pain, minimize inflammation and slow the progression of joint damage. Exercise and physical therapy may also be effective at keeping joints flexible. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to repair tendons or replace damaged joints. In addition to medical treatment, some forms of arthritis may respond to lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating a healthy diet and exercise. Heat and cold therapy may also relieve pain and swelling in joints and assistive devices such as canes or walkers may assist individuals with arthritis with mobility.

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