Arthritis is not a single disease. More than 100 conditions, each characterized by inflammation of one or more joints, are considered forms of arthritis. Medical treatment can control arthritis and can cure certain forms of the disease. Many forms of arthritis may occur only once; others recur.
See a doctor if any of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks: swelling, recurring pain, or tenderness in the joints; morning stiffness; inability to move a joint normally; redness and warmth in a joint; unexplained weight loss, fever, or weakness combined with joint pain.
Osteoarthrltis – When people speak of arthritis, they usually mean osteoarthritis, the most common form. This condition stems from wear and tear on the joints. Any joint can be affected, but those of the hips, knees, shoulders, and spine are most often involved.
Treatment for osteoarthritis usually includes aspirin to relieve the pain and inflammation; exercises to keep the affected joints flexible and build muscle strength; some form of heat (hot baths or showers, compresses, hot tubs, or paraffin treatments); and rest-it often helps to lie down for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day. Other helpful measures include sitting in a straight chair, avoiding stairs, and elevating the leg if the knee is affected. Surgery may be indicated in severe cases of osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis Although less common, rheumatoid arthritis (rheumatism) afflicts many people, and it too is characterized by pain in the joints. Early diagnosis, important with all forms of arthritis, is crucial with rheumatoid arthritis. Mild cases are treated much like osteoarthritis with aspirin, exercises, heat, and rest.