An overview of arthritis

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Aug 05, 2015

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Quick Bites

  • Arthritis is a disease of the joint.
  • It may be caused by wear and tear on the articular cartilage.
  • Or by one of a number of inflammatory processes.
  • It is diagnosed through evaluation of symptoms and physical examination.

Arthritis is a chronic disease of the joints that causes pain and loss of movement of the joints. The word means joint inflammation (arth=joint, ritis=inflammation). There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Your everyday activities can be affected by arthritis and the pain and limitations of movement can last on and off for a lifetime.

Arthritis pain

Causes of arthritic pain

Pain is major feature of arthritis. Common causes of arthritic pain include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This is the most common and serious inflammatory form of arthritis that needs aggressive treatment as it can cause major damage of joint in the first year itself.
  • Psoriatic arthritis: This serious inflammatory form of arthritis is seen in association with psoriasis. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment are needed as it can cause serious problems.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica: It occurs in people older than 50 years of age and presents with severe stiffness and aching in the neck, shoulders, and hips. It is a treatable, condition if accurate diagnosis is made. However as several other conditions look like it, an accurate diagnosis is not always possible.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis:  Ankylosing spondylitis generally affects the spine and the sacroiliac joints and often presents with low back pain. It is a treatable arthritis hence accurate diagnosis and aggressive therapy is essential.
  • Reactive arthritis: Reactive arthritis occurs after an infection, most commonly after infections of the intestine or genitourinary tract. Appropriate treatment is very effective.
  • Gout: Gouty arthritis occurs due to deposition of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals in the joints. Dietary changes and medicines are can treat this condition effectively.
  • Pseudogout:  Arthritis in pseudogout occurs due to deposits of calcium pyrophosphate or hydroxyapatite crystals in most instances. It imitates other types of arthritis like gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
  •  Polymyositis: It is basically an inflammatory form of muscle disease that is often associated with arthritis. As it is a potentially life-threatening disease appropriate aggressive medical therapy is necessary.

Symptoms of arthritis


Common signs and symptoms of arthritis besides pain include:

  • Swelling of the joint
  • Aching and stiffness of the joint
  • Loss of flexibility of joints
  • Decrease in range of motion of joint or loss of motion of the joint

Diagnosis of arthritis

Tests and diagnosis of arthritis

Diagnosing the exact cause of your pain can be difficult at times owing to a wide range of possible causes. Your doctor will take a complete medical history and do a thorough physical exam to diagnose the underlying condition. Medical history may include questions regarding location of the pain, time and pattern of the pain, and any other associated symptoms. Your doctor may order a series of diagnostic tests to know if arthritis is what's behind your joint pain and discomfort. The common tests that your doctor may ask for include:

  • Blood tests to check for proteins (called complements), antibodies (such as Rheumatoid factor, antinuclear antibodies) and other indicators of arthritis
  • X-rays of the affected joint
  • An MRI or CT scan of the joint
  • Bone density scan
  • Ultrasound of the joint and arthroscopy (in this procedure a tube with a camera on one end is inserted into the joint to get a close view of the damage)
  • Arthrocentesis: Removal and evaluation of a joint fluid sample


Image Source: Getty

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