Arthritis is a disease that causes pain and loss of movement
of the joints. The word arthritis literally means joint
inflammation and refers to more than 100 different diseases.
There are over 100 kinds of arthritis that can affect many
different areas of the body. In addition to the joints, some
forms of arthritis are associated with diseases of other
tissues and organs in the body. People of all ages,
including children and young adults, can develop arthritis.
Inflammation is a reaction of the body that causes swelling,
redness, pain, and loss of motion in an affected area. It is
the major physical problem in the most serious forms of
Normally, inflammation is the way the body responds to an
injury or to the presence of disease agents, such as viruses
or bacteria. During this reaction, many cells of the body\'s
defense system (called the immune system) rush to the
injured area to wipe out the cause of the problem, clean up
damaged cells and repair tissues that have been hurt. Once
the "battle" is won, the inflammation normally goes away and
the area becomes healthy again.
In many forms of arthritis, the inflammation does not go
away as it should. Instead, it becomes part of the problem,
damaging healthy tissues of the body. This may result in
more inflammation and more damage in a continuing cycle.
The damage that occurs can change the bones and other
tissues of the joints, sometimes affecting their shape and
making movement hard and painful. Diseases in which the
immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy parts of the
body are called autoimmune diseases.
Standard therapy for any form of arthritis is physical
therapy and occupational therapy to maintain joint mobility
and range of motion. The proper kind and amount of this
therapy will vary depending upon the underlying cause and
upon individual factors that your physician will discuss
Many drugs are now used to treat the inflammation and pain
associated with arthritis. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin,
and others), naproxen (Naprosyn, and others) and dicolfenac
(Voltaren), have immediate analgesic and anti-inflammatory
effects and are relatively safe.
Second-line drugs used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis
include hydroxychloroquine, gold, penicillamine,
azathioprine, sulfasalazine and methotrexate. These agents
(which have no immediate analgesic effect) can control
symptoms and may possibly delay progression of the disease,
but many of them can also cause severe adverse effects and
diminish in effectiveness over time. NSAIDs are usually
taken concurrently with the slower acting second-line drugs,
which may take months to produce a therapeutic response.
Additional References about Arthritis:
Osteoarthritis by the Mayo Clinic
Osteoarthritis at Wikipedia
Rheumatoid Arthritis at the Arthritis Foundation
Rheumatoid Arthritis by the Mayo Clinic
Your complete online resource for Arthritis!