By Shahneel Ahmed

Arthritis refers to joint pain or joint disease. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, and it can affect people of all ages, sexes, and races. In the U.S. more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children are affected by the condition.

In fact, according to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America. Common symptoms of arthritis are swelling, pain, stiffness, and a decreased range of joint motion. Some symptoms may come and go, while others may remain constant for years and may improve or worsen over time.

One type of arthritis, Degenerative Arthritis, is caused by a decrease in cartilage. Cartilage is a firm and flexible connective tissue that protects your joints. The decrease in cartilage increases the friction between bones, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Over time, the joints can lose strength and cause chronic pain.

A second type of arthritis is Inflammatory Arthritis. This occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation. This inflammation can ultimately lead to joint erosion. A third type is Infectious Arthritis that occurs when a bacterium, virus, or fungus enters the joint, triggering inflammation.

There is also Metabolic Arthritis. This occurs in those that have high levels of uric acid or the inability to get rid of uric acid fast enough. The uric acid build up creates needle-like crystals in the joints, which then leads to joint pain.

Furthermore, there are a few risk factors for arthritis. One is family history, if your parents or siblings have arthritis, you may be more likely to develop the condition. Age is another risk factor. The risk of many types of arthritis increases with age. Another risk factor is previous injury to the joints.

Lastly, obesity is a risk factor for arthritis because excess weight can put stress on the joints, especially the knees, hips, and spine. Learning about arthritis and becoming educated about the treatment options, increasing physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are essential to preserving joint function, range of motion, and overall quality of life. The Arthritis Foundation is one nonprofit organization that can be a great resource to those affected with arthritis. Please visit them at www.arthritis.org

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