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Arthritis in Western Medicine

Joint inflammation

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. A joint is the area where two bones meet. There are over 100 different types of arthritis.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage normally protects a joint, allowing it to move smoothly. Cartilage also absorbs shock when pressure is placed on the joint, such as when you walk. Without the normal amount of cartilage, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling (inflammation), and stiffness.

Joint inflammation may result from:

An autoimmune disease (the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue)

Broken bone

General "wear and tear" on joints

Infection, usually by bacteria or virus

Usually the joint inflammation goes away after the cause goes away or is treated. Sometimes it does not. When this happens, you have chronic arthritis. Arthritis may occur in men or women. Osteoarthritis is the most common type. See: Osteoarthritis

Other, more common types of arthritis include:

Ankylosing spondylitis

Gonococcal arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (in children)

Other bacterial infections (nongonococcal bacterial arthritis)

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Reactive arthritis (Reiter syndrome)

Rheumatoid arthritis (in adults)

Psoriatic arthritis

Scleroderma

Gout

Symptoms

Arthritis causes joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited movement. Symptoms can include:

Joint pain

Joint swelling

Warmth around a joint

Reduced ability to move the joint

Redness of the skin around a joint

Stiffness, especially in the morning

Signs and tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history.

The physical exam may show:

Fluid around a joint

Warm, red, tender joints

Difficulty moving a joint (called "limited range of motion")

Some types of arthritis may cause joint deformity. This may be a sign of severe, untreated rheumatoid arthritis.

Blood tests and joint x-rays are often done to check for infection and other causes of arthritis.

Your doctor may also remove a sample of joint fluid with a needle and send it to a lab for examination.

>Doctor Wang
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