arthritis in handsArthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S., with an estimated 54 million adults having physician diagnoses. An additional 300,000 babies and children also have arthritis or a rheumatic condition. Despite its prevalence, there is a lot that is still not understood about arthritis. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is an informal term that refers to joint pain or joint disease. It is not a single disease, but instead, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions with osteoarthritis being the most common. Other common types of arthritis include gout, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis is most prevalent in adults over the age of 65, but it can also develop in children, teens and younger adults. It is more common in women than men, and in people who are overweight.


For many types of arthritis, the causes are still unknown. To learn more about arthritis risk factors and possible causes, researchers are studying the role of factors such as genetics, lifestyle and environment.

So far, what we do know is that osteoarthritis is caused by normal wear and tear. The cartilage within your joints is firm, but flexible. Its purpose is to protect the joints by absorbing the pressure and shock created when you move them. The reduction in the amount of cartilage is a common cause for some forms of arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disorder. In these cases, a person’s immune system attacks the tissues of the body which leads to the breakdown of the cartilage due to the lack of fluid it requires for nourishment and joint lubrication.


Depending on the type of arthritis, symptoms may appear suddenly or develop gradually over time. Some may come and go, whereas other may persist over time. The most common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Redness of the skin around the joint

Those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may also feel tired or experience loss of appetite.


The various types of arthritis each have their own causes and treatment methods. Regardless of the type, the main goal of treatment remains the same—to reduce the amount of pain one experiences and prevent further damage to the joints.

For some, heating pads or ice packs may provide relief. Others may rely on mobility assistance devices like canes or walkers to help relieve pressure. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise can also have positive effects.

Upon diagnosis, a physician may prescribe medication to help manage your symptoms including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen), menthol or capsaicin creams, or immunosuppressants (prednisone or cortisone).

In some cases, physical therapy or surgery may be recommended.

Contact South Shore Orthopedic

If you think you may be suffering from arthritis, schedule an appointment at South Shore Orthopedics today. Our team of expert medical professionals are dedicated to providing the highest caliber of treatment so that you can enjoy the quality of life you deserve.