The condition known as arthritis actually encompasses a number of rheumatic
diseases that result in inflammation
, pain, and stiffness primarily in the joints and connective tissues such as muscles
, and tendons
. The majority of arthritic disorders are chronic
and some cause cartilage and bone to deteriorate
Inflammation is a a natural part of the body's response to injury and infection, but is a response which often exacerbates injury instead of helping to alleviate it. When inflammation is persistent, intense, recurrent or spreading to other areas of the body, significant problems will arise. Many forms of arthritis result from the uncontrolled inflammation of an autoimmune disease. Sometimes, however, the joint area becomes inflamed for no apparent reason.
Stiffness, rigidity and tissue damage are a few results of the havoc arthritis wreaks on joints. As mobility decreases, the muscles surrounding the joint also weaken, allowing for further injury to the joint. Over time, the cartilage breaks down, the bone erodes and the joints become misshapen. This process is what is known as arthritis.
Every type of arthritis has its own characteristic symptoms. Common symptoms include pain and limited movement at certain sites along the body. Pain and stiffness are generally more severe in the morning or on certain days. Sometimes symptoms disappear completely for considerable stretches of time, only to flare up again later. For most, the disease lasts a lifetime.
Other symptoms common among different types of arthritis:
There are more than 100 distinct arthritic conditions. However, 90% of arthritic cases involve at least one of these five disorders: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosus, and gout.