Pain, inflammation, and stiffness in one or more joints
The term arthritis covers a group of inflammatory and degenerative conditions that cause stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints. Arthritis may also be linked with disorders such as psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.
There are several different types of arthritis, each having different characteristics. The most common form is osteoarthritis, which most often involves the knees, hips, and hands and usually affects middle-aged and older people. Cervical spondylosis is a form of osteoarthritis that affects the joints in the neck.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a damaging condition that causes inflammation in the joints and in other body tissues, such as the membranous heart covering, lungs, and eyes. The disorder has different effects in children (see Juvenile chronic arthritis). Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic form of arthritis that initially affects the spine and the joints between the base of the spine and the pelvis. Other tissues, such as the eyes, may also be affected. The disorder may eventually cause the vertebrae to fuse.
Reactive arthritis typically develops in susceptible people after they have had an infection, most commonly of the genital tract or intestines. Reactive arthritis most often causes inflammation in an ankle or a knee.
Septic arthritis is a relatively rare condition that can develop when infection enters a joint either through a wound or from the bloodstream.
Treatment depends on the type of arthritis. Painkillers, such as paracetamol, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may relieve symptoms. Physiotherapy may keep joints mobile and strengthen surrounding muscles. Severely damaged joints may be replaced surgically (see Joint replacement).
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.