Arthritis is a general term meaning ”inflammation of the joint.” There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritic conditions that can affect the human body, but the two most common forms are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Joint cartilage is a tough, smooth tissue that covers the ends of bones where joints are located. It helps cushion the bones during movement, and because it is smooth and slippery, it allows for motion with minimal friction. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a wear and tear condition that destroys joint cartilage. Sometimes as the result of trauma, repetitive movement, or for no apparent reason, the cartilage wears down, exposing bone ends. This can occur quickly over months or may take years to occur. Cartilage destruction can result in painful bone-on-bone contact, along with swelling and loss of motion. Osteoarthritis usually occurs later in live and may affect only one joint or many joints.
Contributing factors to osteoarthritis include prior trauma, high activity levels, excess weight, age, and malalignment, such as bowlegs or knock-knees. Some people have a genetic predisposition to weak cartilage, although many people do not have any contributing factors. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis seems to be related to an abnormality of the immune system. It may be genetically linked as well. It is not caused by trauma, activity, weight, or posture, but it is aggravated by these factors.
There is currently no cure for either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but there are treatment options. Early diagnosis and treatment can lead to improvement in arthritic symptoms and can delay further joint destruction.
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