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Facts about arthritis

Published Date:

Did you know there are more than 100 different types of arthritis? 

Arthritis can affect people of all ages—even children—although it's most common in older adults. And as our population gets older, medical providers and public health officials anticipate that more people will be living with arthritis every year.

You can't prevent arthritis. However, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing it in the future or help to manage your condition if you're ever diagnosed.

What is arthritis? 

Arthritis refers to conditions that cause joint pain and dysfunction. About 1 in 4 adults in America have at least one kind of arthritis. A few of the most common types we diagnose and treat at SIU Medicine include:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA): OA develops over time as the cushiony layers of cartilage inside joints wear down, eventually causing the bones inside the joint to rub against each other.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): RA is a type of autoimmune disease, which means the person's immune system mistakenly attacks joint tissue.
  • Gout: This happens when a compound called uric acid builds up in the joints, typically because a person has too much uric acid in their body or can't excrete it properly.
  • Infectious arthritis or septic arthritis: This type of arthritis occurs when a joint becomes infected with microorganisms like bacteria, viruses or fungi. 

In children, one of the most common types of arthritis is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Its cause is unknown, but it's most likely due to a combination of infectious, environmental and genetic (family) factors.

Risk factors for arthritis in adults include genetic factors, advancing age, obesity, smoking, and a history of injury or exposure to infectious agents. 

Do I have arthritis? Signs & symptoms

Frequency, type, duration, location and intensity of arthritis symptoms will vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of arthritis. Stress, sedentary lifestyle and poor sleep may worsen arthritis symptoms. 

Only a physician can diagnose arthritis.  The common symptoms are:

  • Stiff, achy and sore joints
  • Redness or swelling around the joint
  • The feeling or sensation of clicking, grinding or popping in a joint 

Any joint in the body can be affected by arthritis, including the shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands, hips, knees, ankles and spine. Some types of arthritis present other symptoms that might not seem to have anything to do with the joints, such as fatigue, rash, hair loss and fever.  

How arthritis is diagnosed and treated

It is important to know the type of arthritis you have, because it will determine what type of treatment you need. And treatment matters too—because untreated arthritis can lead to long-term complications like loss of independence, weakness and falls. 

A doctor can diagnose arthritis based on a physical examination, family history and if necessary, the use of lab tests or imaging studies. As it is true for most health conditions, arthritis treatment needs to be highly individualized. Improving function and relieving pain can be achieved through a combination of services like:

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medications (oral, topical or even injected into the joint)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dietary and lifestyle modifications (quit smoking, eat nutrient-rich foods, improve sleep, stay physically active, maintain a healthy weight)
  • Surgery, such as joint replacement

Living with arthritis?

SIU Medicine raises the standard of care for our patients in Illinois through academic medicine, collaborating with clinicians and researchers to deliver treatments that are innovative and effective. Connect with a doctor who cares and get meaningful improvements in your arthritis  by calling 217-545-8000. 

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