The term literally means inflammation of a joint, but it is generally used to describe any condition in which there is damage to the cartilage. Arthritis is very common, as there are more than 100 types of arthritis. Individuals of all ages, races, and sexes can develop arthritis; however, it occurs more frequently with women and as people get older. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States, with more than 3 million annual cases domestically.

Common symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion as a result of joint inflammation. Symptoms may be temporary or chronic, with varying degrees of discomfort. Some individuals may experience mild, moderate, to severe symptoms, which may remain the same for years but can degenerate over time. Severe arthritis can make it difficult to perform daily activities or walk/climb stairs, as well as cause permanent joint damage. Additional types of arthritis can impact the eyes, kidneys, lungs, and heart.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis, also known as “degenerative joint disease (DJD),” is the most common type of arthritis. It affects the joint surfaces, which are normally lined with a thick layer of smooth cartilage that cushions the bones and helps them glide against each other. As the cartilage gets worn down it becomes thinner and frayed, which can cause pain and limited movement. To make things worse, bone spurs can form, which further irritate the surrounding tissues.

Symptoms include stiffness, pain, swelling, grinding, and clicking of the joints. The most common joints affected by OA are the knees, hips, hands, wrists, and spine. Risk factors include older age, family history, being overweight, and previous medical trauma.

Treatments of OA aim to accomplish three main things: pain control, maintenance of joint function, and prevention of degeneration. Tylenol and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve, have analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits but can have systemic side effects. Injectable treatments include corticosteroids, hyaluronate, platelet rich plasama (PRP), and stem cell therapy. If the above treatements are not successful, genicular nerve blocks and radiofrequency ablation can be considered.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Joint symptoms can indicate arthritis that may cause permanent damage if not treated promptly. Be alert for these potential symptoms of arthritis:

  • Inflammation in one or more joints
  • Pain, swelling, or stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion in one ore more joints
  • Inability to move a joint or perform other daily activities
  • Other joint pain that causes you concern