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Arthritis is a very common type of joint disorder that can be characterized by inflammation of one or more joints in the body. More than 100 types of arthritis have been identified, but one of the most common forms is osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, that can be caused by injury, age, or infection. Other types include rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Conditions like gout are also forms of arthritis. Arthritis may present on its own or as a secondary side effect to other diseases like sarcoidosis, hepatitis, and Lyme disease.

Though there are many different types of arthritis, the most common symptoms remain the same. These symptoms include pain, joint stiffness, and swelling. While the severity of these symptoms may vary, they are common in all types of arthritis. Patients may also experience other symptoms including an inability to walk or use a particular joint, tenderness, muscle aches or pains, tiredness, inability to sleep, and difficulty moving the joint. As the condition progresses, they may also experience muscle weakness and reduced flexibility due to reduced physical activity.

Diagnosing Arthritis

Doctors are able to diagnose various forms of arthritis through physical examinations and tests. Obtaining a full medical and family history is also an important step in diagnosing arthritis and can often allow doctors to determine the exact form a patient is suffering from with little or no further testing. By understanding the onset, symptoms, tenderness, pain level, and factors that can relieve a patient's symptoms, doctors can often confirm an initial diagnosis. To determine severity or document the progression of the disease, radiographs are commonly used.

Treating Arthritis

Because there are so many different forms of arthritis, treatment can vary greatly. It typically cannot be cured, but there are treatments that can help to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, and further progression of the disease can often be slowed or prevented. Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs are typically prescribed to manage the painful effects of the disorder. In addition, patients can improve symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening by exercising and engaging in frequent physical activity. In some cases, physical therapy can be very helpful in strengthening the joints and muscles. In advanced cases, surgery such as joint replacement may be beneficial in restoring motion and eliminating or greatly reducing pain.

Common forms of arthritis like osteoarthritis can be very painful, but they can be managed with medication and physical activity. Other forms like rheumatoid arthritis can lead to physical deformities that can be disabling. With any type of arthritis, early treatment is a key component in reducing the symptoms and preventing the condition from progressing to a point where it can lead to disability or deformity.