Arthritis is a term used to describe more than 100 different conditions that affect the joints in the body. The word “arthritis” actually means inflammation of a joint. Almost every animal that can walk is susceptible to this inflammation. Although many types of arthritis have common aspects, each type has its own pattern of symptoms and affects different people in different ways.
Two major forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In cases of rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system appears to go awry and attacks healthy parts of the body, particularly the joints. In severe cases, the joints become deformed and internal organs are adversely affected.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is also called degenerative joint disease or "wear and tear" arthritis. Almost everyone is affected by it to some extent as they grow older. It most frequently occurs in weight-bearing joints, mainly knees, hips and ankles.
While there is no cure for arthritis, advances in technology continue to develop new ways to manage symptoms of osteoarthritis. The goals of treatment are to reduce pain, increase the strength of the joints, maintain or improve joint movement and reduce the disabling effects of osteoarthritis.
Treatment often depends on the joints involved and can include medicines, lifestyle changes, physical therapy and surgery.
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