Arthritis literally means inflammation within the joint itself. Inflammation is part of your body’s healing process. It normally occurs as a defence against viruses and bacteria or as a reaction to injuries such as a burn. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.
Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years, but may progress or get worse over time. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. But in people with this type of arthritis, inflammation often occurs for no obvious reason. This is referred to as an autoimmune condition and means that the immune system is attacking your joints. Instead of helping to repair the body, inflammation can cause damage to the affected joint and cause pain and stiffness.
Inflammation may also affect the tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint. Inflammatory types of arthritis often affect several joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is a common example, is a systemic illness that mainly affects the joints. As well as joint pain and swelling, other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can include:
• flu-like symptoms.
There are many other forms of inflammatory arthritis, including:
• ankylosing spondylitis
• psoriatic arthritis
• reactive arthritis.