The term arthritis literally means inflammation of a joint, but is generally used to describe any condition in which there is damage to the cartilage. Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury. The warning signs that inflammation presents are redness, swelling, heat and pain.

The cartilage is a padding that absorbs stress. The proportion of cartilage damage and synovial inflammation varies with the type and stage of arthritis. Usually the pain early on is due to inflammation. In the later stages, when the cartilage is worn away, most of the pain comes from the mechanical friction of raw bones rubbing on each other.

There are two broad categories of “arthritis”. The most common types are mechanical causes of arthritis and can be thought of as “wear and tear” arthritis, with the most common forms being osteoarthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. The second category consists of auto-immune diseases or rheumatologic arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are common forms of this type.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is also called as degenerative joint disease; this is the most common type of arthritis, which occurs often in older people. This disease affects cartilage, the tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bones in a joint. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage starts to wear away over time. In extreme cases, the cartilage can completely wear away, leaving nothing to protect the bones in a joint, causing bone-on-bone contact. Bones may also bulge, or stick out at the end of a joint, called a bone spur.

Osteoarthritis causes joint pain and can limit a person's normal range of motion (the ability to freely move and bend a joint). When severe, the joint may lose all movement, causing a person to become disabled. Disability most often happens when the disease affects the spine, Knees, and Hips.

Post-traumatic Arthritis

Arthritis developing following an injury to a joint is called as post-traumatic arthritis. The condition may develop years after the trauma such as a fracture, severe sprain, or ligament tears.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is an auto-immune disease in which the body's immune system (the body's way of fighting infection) attacks healthy joints, tissues, and organs. Occurring most often in women of childbearing age (15-44), this disease inflames the lining (or synovium) of joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints. When severe, rheumatoid arthritis can deform, or change, a joint. For example, the joints in a person's finger can become deformed, causing the finger to bend or curve.

Rheumatoid Arthritis affects mostly joints of the hands and knees and tends to be symmetrical. This means the disease affects the same joints on both sides of the body (both hands or both feet) at the same time and with the same symptoms. No other form of arthritis is symmetrical. About two to three times as many women as men have this disease.

Psoriatic Arthritis

This form of Arthritis occurs in some persons with psoriasis, a scaling skin disorder, affecting the joints at the ends of the fingers and toes. It can also cause changes in the fingernails and toenails. Back pain may occur if the spine is involved.

Symptoms of Arthritis

There are more than 150 different forms of arthritis. Symptoms vary according to the form of Arthritis. Each form affects the body differently. Arthritic symptoms generally include swelling and pain or tenderness in one or more joints for more than two weeks, redness or heat in a joint, limitation of motion of joint, early morning stiffness, and skin changes including rashes.

Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose arthritis with a medical history, physical exam and X-rays of the affected part. Computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are also performed to diagnose arthritis.

Treatment Options

Unfortunately, there is no true cure for arthritis, meaning there is no way to “re-grow” the lost cartilage. Joint replacement “cures” the arthritis by removing the arthritis and replacing it with metal, plastic and ceramic. All other treatments are aimed at improving your pain and symptoms.

Many times, initial treatment for arthritis is conservative, consisting of physical therapy, and the use of non-narcotic analgesic and/or anti-inflammatory medications. With worsening symptoms, a cane or braces may be helpful. For more severe symptoms, an injection of cortisone into the joint is frequently advised and can be quite helpful. When conservative measures have been exhausted, offer no relief, and has become disabling, the surgery may be recommended. Surgery is usually considered if nonsurgical treatment fails to give relief. The main surgical treatment for arthritis is partial or total joint arthroplasty.

Therapeutic Injections for Knee Arthritis

Therapeutic knee injections can reduce painful symptoms related to knee osteoarthritis. Injections are often used in conjunction with other nonsurgical treatments—such as physical therapy, bracing or medications.

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Arthroplasty

In this procedure, your surgeon removes the affected joint, or a portion of the joint, and replaces it with metal, plastic or ceramic. It is usually performed when the joint is severely damaged by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis or avascular necrosis. The goal of the surgery is to relieve pain and restore the normal functioning of the joint. Total joint replacement can be performed through an open or minimally invasive approach.