The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

May 15, 2014

Learn the facts about arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common health problems in the U.S. Millions of Americans have some form of arthritis that leads to pain, stiffness and loss of motion. Many of them are over the age of 65, but people of all ages, including children, can be affected.

Simply put, arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. The most common symptoms are pain and stiffness, which typically worsens as you get older. The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is usually caused by normal wear and tear of the joint’s cartilage. If the cartilage is damaged enough over a period of time, it results in bone contacting directly on bone, which can be painful and restrict movement. Osteoarthritis can also be caused by a trauma to the joint, such as a car accident or sports injury.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. The body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissue, specifically the synovial membrane, which is the lining of the joint capsule. The tissue becomes inflamed and swollen and can eventually result in erosion of the bone, as well as joint deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age but is most common in people over the age of 40. It’s also much more common in women than in men.

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are some effective treatments to help relieve the symptoms. Some of the most common treatments include:

• Medications

• Creams/ointments

• Steroids

• Heat

• Physical therapy

• Acupuncture

• Yoga or tai chi

• Surgery

• Canes or walkers

Severe arthritis can dramatically reduce quality of life and make simple daily tasks, such as buttoning a shirt or walking comfortably, difficult. The most common joints affected by arthritis are in the hands, feet, knees and hips. But there are things you can do to help prevent arthritis from occurring or worsening.

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