What is Arthritis?

What is Arthritis?

The word arthritis stems from the Greek word “arthron” which translates to “joint” and the Latin word “itis” which means “inflammation.” The plural of arthritis is arthritides. Arthritis is condition that affects the musculoskeletal system, especially the joints. It is the main cause of disability among people in industrialized countries over the age of 55.

Arthritis is actually a term that covers more than 100 medical conditions, as it is not a single disease. OA or Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis and it typically affects elderly patients. There are however, certain kinds of arthritis that can affect people at a very early age.

What causes Arthritis?

In order to realize what is going on when someone is suffering from any kind of arthritis, it is important to first understand how a joint works in the body. A joint is where one bone moves on another bone. Ligaments hold the two bones together and are similar to elastic bands. The ligaments are responsible for keeping your bones in place, however, your muscles contract or relax in order to make the joint move.

Cartilage is located on the surface of the bone and is the substance that stops the two bones from directly rubbing against each other. The covering of cartilage enables the joint to function painlessly and smoothly.

There is a capsule that surrounds the joint. The joint cavity or space within the joint contains synovial fluid. Synovial fluid nourishes the cartilage and the joint. This special fluid is produced by the synovial membrane or the synovium which lines the joint cavity.

In an arthritic situation, something goes awry with the joints. What goes wrong depends on the particular kind of arthritis that you have. It could be that there is a lack of fluid in the joints, or possibly that the cartilage is wearing away, an infection is in place or your body is attacking itself with some form of autoimmunity disorder. Arthritis can be a combination of numerous factors.

Types of Arthritis

There are more than 100 kinds of arthritis. Here is a description of some of the common types, along with their causes:


In Osteoarthritis, the cartilage loses its elasticity. When this happens, the cartilage becomes stiff and is susceptible to being damaged more easily. The cartilage, which normally acts as a shock absorber within the joints, can gradually wear away in certain areas. As the cartilage becomes damaged and the ligaments and tendons become stretched, pain is felt. Severe pain may occur when the bones eventually rub up against each other.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis. In this situation, the synovium or synovial membrane is attacked. This results in pain and swelling. If left untreated, this kind of arthritis can lead to deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis is much more common in women compared to men. Typically, this condition occurs in patients aged between forty and sixty years old, although, it does sometimes affect kids and much older people. In October 2012, Swedish scientists published a study in JAMA explaining that patients who have rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk of blood clots in the initial 10 years after diagnosis.

Infectious Arthritis or Septic Arthritic

This particular condition refers to an infection in the tissues and synovial fluid of a joint. Generally, it is caused by bacteria, although, it may be the result of viruses or fungi. Viruses, fungi or bacteria may spread through the bloodstream from nearby infected tissue and could infect a joint nearby. Most susceptible people are those who already have another kind of arthritis in their system and develop an infection that travels through their bloodstream.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or JRA

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, known as JRA for short, means that the arthritis is affects a patient who is 16 years old or younger, describing a child with the condition. There are 3 main kinds of JRA: Systemic JRA is the least common kind. In this condition, pain is felt in multiple joints and can even spread to organs. This is the most severe kind of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Polyarticular JRA is another kind which affects numerous joints and can be severe. In many cases, it tends to get worse as time progresses. The last and most common type is Pauciarticular JRA. This is the mildest form and the child experiences pain in up to 4 joints.

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What is Arthritis?

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