Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. This results in pain, swelling, stiffness and limited movement. With over 100 different forms, arthritis is one of the most common diseases in the United States and it is estimated that over 50 million Americans suffer from some form of the disease.

When someone has arthritis, it is due to the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage is what normally protects the joint by absorbing the shock when there is pressure placed on the joint and it makes it easier for movement.

However, when there is not the normal amount of cartilage to protect the joint, it causes the bones to rub together creating pain, swelling (inflammation) and stiffness. The wear of cartilage can happen from a number of reasons that include the following:

• Everyday wear and tear (the cartilage will start to deteriorate overtime)
• If you have suffered a broken bone
• Had an infection from either bacteria or virus
• If you have autoimmune disease (this is when the body attacks itself because the immune system does not recognize a particular body part)

These types of things do not guarantee that you will end up with arthritis, but they are all factors that help to contribute. If they do lead to arthritis, then inflammation will often go away and return off and on. This can normally be controlled by taking medication. In cases when inflammation is persistent, then chronic arthritis is often the diagnosis.

The most common type of chronic arthritis, osteoarthritis, usually occurs as you age and affects joints in the hips, fingers, and knees. This often occurs when someone has previously injured the affected joint or constantly uses the infected joint in a repetitive action. Being overweight is one of the biggest culprits. People who are overweight are 50 percent more likely to develop osteoarthritis than those who are not overweight.

The following are symptoms of arthritis. Remember, if you think you may have arthritis, it is extremely important to see a physician to inhibit the disease from getting worse. Symptoms include the following:

• Reduced movement in the joint(s)
• Warmth and redness of the skin around a joint
• Stiffness
• Pain and swelling

Your doctor will do a physical examination to determine if you need further testing. Treatments will depend on the type of arthritis, where the arthritis is located in the body, and the severity of the arthritis.

Treatments for arthritis tend to focus more on trying to reduce pain, discomfort and further damage to the affected area. Making changes to your everyday lifestyle can greatly reduce your arthritis symptoms. Eating healthier and starting an exercise regimen are great ways to help.

Exercising is very important because it can help to improve muscle and bone strength, relieve stiffness, and reduce fatigue and pain. Exercises can be done by doing low-impact aerobic activity, flexibility exercises, and strength training.

Other things you can do to improve your symptoms are to rest the injured joint and find ways to make everyday activities easier. For example, you should try to get 8-10 hours of rest per day. Also, you could try to add grab bars to the shower or tub in order to take strain off of your hips and knees.

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