Arthritis (from Greek arthro-, joint + -itis, inflammation; plural: arthritides) is a group of conditions involving damage to the joints of the body. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in people older than fifty-five years.
All arthritides feature pain. Pain patterns may differ depending on the arthritides and the location. Rheumatoid arthritis is generally worse in the morning and associated with stiffness; in the early stages, patients often have no symptoms after a morning shower. In the aged and children, pain might not be the main presenting feature; the aged patient simply moves less, the infantile patient refuses to use the affected limb.
Elements of the history of the disorder guide diagnosis. Important features are speed and time of onset, pattern of joint involvement, symmetry of symptoms, early morning stiffness, tenderness, gelling or locking with inactivity, aggravating and relieving factors, and other systemic symptoms. Physical examination may confirm the diagnosis, or may indicate systemic disease. Radiographs are often used to follow progression or assess severity in a more quantitative manner.
There are different forms of arthritis; each has a different cause. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) is a result of trauma to the joint, infection of the joint, or age. Emerging evidence suggests that abnormal anatomy might contribute to the early development of osteoarthritis. Other arthritis forms are rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, autoimmune diseases in which the body attacks itself. Septic arthritis is caused by joint infection. Gouty arthritis is caused by deposition of uric acid crystals in the joint, causing inflammation. There is also an uncommon form of gout caused by the formation of rhomboid crystals of calcium pyrophosphate. This gout is known as pseudogout.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. More women than men get rheumatoid arthritis. It often starts between ages 25 and 55. You might have the disease for only a short time, or symptoms might come and go. The severe form can last a lifetime. Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis, the common arthritis that often comes with older age. RA can affect body parts besides joints, such as your eyes, mouth and lungs. RA is an autoimmune disease, which means the arthritis results from your immune system attacking your body’s own tissues. No one knows what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Genes, environment and hormones might contribute. Treatments include medicine, lifestyle changes and surgery. These can slow or stop joint damage and reduce pain and swelling.
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