Arthritis means “inflammation of a joint.” Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury or irritation of a joint. A joint is a location in the body where two bones are connected together by fibrous connective tissue (bands) and lined with a surface material called articular cartilage that allows smooth low friction movement. Loss of the cartilage lining of a bone from any cause (infection, inflammation, injury, aging or heredity) can result in arthritis. The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In osteoarthritis, the inflammation arises because the smooth covering (articular cartilage) on the ends of bones become damaged or worn. Osteoarthritis is usually found in one, usually weight-bearing, joint.
In other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, the joint lining (synovium) becomes inflamed as part of a disease process that affects the entire body. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often involves smaller joints of the hand, wrist and feet.
Your orthopaedic surgeon can diagnose arthritis with a clinical examination and X-rays. The addition of a simple laboratory test can help to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment options for arthritis includes lifestyle modifications (low impact exercise, weight loss, and a cane or walker), medication (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, oral steroids, biological agents for RA, injections and surgery.
If you or your loved one is concerned about the possibility of having arthritis, see your primary care physician and/or an orthopaedic surgeon. For more information on arthritis diagnosis and treatment, visit www.Orthoinfo.org.