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Understanding Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Arthritis is a condition that affects millions of people each year, and causes an inflammation of the joints. There are over 100 types of arthritis, all with different causes and treatment options. The most common types of arthritis, however, are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While there is no cure for arthritis, several treatment options exist that can make living with the condition more manageable. If you’re suffering from a form of arthritis, keep reading to learn more about causes, symptoms and treatments, so you can discuss your options with your doctor.

Arthritis causes can vary depending on the type of arthritis. In some cases, normal wear and tear on the cartilage can lead to arthritis. Infection or injury to joints can also be a cause in some cases. This is most common in osteoarthritis, and family history may increase the risk of developing the condition. Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by an autoimmune disorder, which occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the body’s tissues. If you’ve been diagnosed with a form of arthritis, your doctor may be able to tell you what may have caused it. In some cases, however, the exact cause is not known.

Symptoms of arthritis are similar for most forms of arthritis, and include pain, stiffness and swelling of the affected joints. Range of motion may be impaired and in some cases you may notice redness of the skin surrounding the joints. For many people with arthritis, the symptoms are worse in the mornings and ease up throughout the day, though this is not always the case. Other forms of arthritis may also cause fatigue, loss of appetite, anemia and other symptoms. You should always be sure to talk to your doctor about all your symptoms, even if you feel they may not be related to your arthritis. This will help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis of the type of arthritis you have, so effective treatment can begin.

In order to diagnose arthritis, your doctor will need to perform a thorough medical history, and will also perform a physical examination to check for fluid around the joints, redness or swelling, limitations in range of motion and other symptoms. For severe symptoms, a visit with a rheumatologist may be needed. Blood tests and other lab tests may also be performed, as well as imaging scans like x-rays or MRIs to other conditions can be ruled out before making an official diagnosis.

Once you have been diagnosed with arthritis and the type of arthritis has been identified, your doctor will work with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan. Treatment may include medications, such as anti-inflammatories, pain relievers, immunosuppressants or creams to help with your symptoms. Physical therapy may also be recommended to help strengthen the muscles around the joint and improve range of motion. In some cases, surgery may be recommended, especially for arthritis affecting the hips or knees.

If you have arthritis, be sure to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and treatment options, so you can get back to enjoying life without the pain and other symptoms caused by arthritis.