Whether your knees ache when you climb stairs or it hurts to bend down to tie your shoes, arthritis can be a real pain. There is no easy fix for osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis and the focus of this article. In this condition, cartilage (the covering on
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Sore, stiff joints are one of the most common afflictions that come with age. Arthritis in its various forms affects more than 50 million American adults. The disease can reflect a degenerative process?a wearing away of the protective cartilage that cushions the connections between bones, such as in osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type. Or it can be due to inflammation inside the body, such as in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the joints.
No matter what form you have, arthritis symptoms are typically the same: pain, stiffness, swelling, loss of motion, and deformity in the joint. The longer the disease progresses and the more the cartilage wears away, the worse arthritis symptoms become.
Pain in the joints is the main symptom of both OA and RA. That pain can range from mild to severe, but it will usually increase with activity. Arthritis is a progressive disease. Left untreated, arthritis symptoms will get worse over time. As the joint cushioning wears away, you might notice a popping or cracking, the sound of bone rubbing against bone. The irritation from this motion causes the joint to swell up and become red and tender to the touch. Arthritis pain and stiffness can reduce your range of motion, making it more difficult to do your daily activities, from climbing stairs to exercising. Eventually, the damage will lead to permanent changes?knobs that stick out from the bone and deform your fingers and other joints.
Treatment for OA aims to reduce pain and stiffness, and slow down its progressive joint destruction. OA therapies include exercise, physical therapy, and medicines to reduce pain. Weight loss can take some of the pressure off painful joints. If all other treatments fail, surgery is an option. For RA, disease-modifying drugs slow the progression of joint damage and may stall or prevent the need for surgery.
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