Every joint in the human body is made up of bone ends that are capped with a soft material called cartilage. Healthy cartilage cushions the joint and is lubricated by joint fluid that allows for smooth motion.
Cartilage also has no nerves, so it can help absorb impact on the joints without pain.
Arthritis is a disease of this cartilage that causes the protective cushion to gradually erode, exposing the sensitive bone underneath. Joint replacement surgery can put an end to the pain caused by the resulting bone-on-bone contact.
Overall, one in four people will suffer from arthritis in their lifetime, and the prevalence is higher as we age. Women are more likely to develop more severe arthritis and at a younger age than men, and obesity doubles the risk of knee arthritis.
There are two main types of arthritis. The most common type is called osteoarthritis. The other type is called inflammatory arthritis – the most common of which is rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis itself has many causes, which include prior injury or trauma to the joint, childhood joint malformations or diseases, osteonecrosis (dead bone), or even genetics.
Inflammatory arthritis is typically caused by an immune system abnormality where it attacks its own bodily tissues, including the joints.
Common symptoms of arthritis include:
- Morning stiffness greater than 30 minutes
- Pain in the affected joint
- Radiating pain in the extremities
- Trouble with stairs, getting in and out of cars, putting on shoes and socks
- Locking, catching or giving way
- Swelling of the joint
- Loss of motion of the joint
- Night pain in more advanced cases
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, visit our joint specialists. A detailed history, thorough physical exam, and diagnostic imaging such as X-rays or an MRI are usually all that is needed to diagnose arthritis.