Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints.
Inflammation of the joints from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness,
swelling, redness, and warmth. Tenderness of the inflamed joint can be
Many of the forms of arthritis, because they are rheumatic diseases, can
cause symptoms affecting various organs of the body that do not directly
involve the joints. Therefore, symptoms in some patients with certain forms of
arthritis can also include fever, gland swelling, weight loss, fatigue, feeling
unwell, and even symptoms from abnormalities of organs such as the lungs,
heart, or kidneys.
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics, including some of the oldest -- and most cherished -- medical myths out there. For our October 2011 issue, we asked Dimitrios Pappas, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, about the long-term effects of one popular childhood activity: knuckle cracking.
Q: My 10-year-old son cracks his knuckles. Is it true that it causes arthritis?
Arthritis sufferers include men and women, children and adults.
Approximately 350 million people worldwide have arthritis. Nearly 40 million
persons in the United States are affected by arthritis, including over a
quarter million children!
More than 21 million Americans have osteoarthritis. Approximately 2.1
million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
More than half of those with arthritis are under 65 years of age. Nearly 60%
of Americans with arthritis are women.
How Is Arthritis Diagnosed And Why Is A Diagnosis Important?
The first step in the diagnosis of arthritis is a meeting between the doctor
and the patient. The doctor will review the history of symptoms, examine the
joints for inflammation and deformity, as well as ask questions about or
examine other parts of the body for inflammation or signs of diseases that can
affect other body areas. Furthermore, certain blood, urine, joint fluid and/or
x-ray tests might be ordered. The diagnosis will be based on the pattern of
symptoms, the distribution of the inflamed joints, and any blood and x-ray
findings. Several visits may be necessary before the doctor can be certain of
the diagnosis. A doctor with special training in arthritis and related diseases
is called a rheumatologist (see below).
Many forms of arthritis are more of an annoyance than serious. However,
millions of patients suffer daily with pain and disability from arthritis or
Earlier and accurate diagnosis can help to prevent irreversible damage and
disability. Properly guided programs of exercise and rest, medications,
physical therapy, and surgery options can idealize long-term outcomes for
It should be noted that both before and especially after the diagnosis of
arthritis, communication with the treating doctor is essential for optimal
health. This is important from the standpoint of the doctor, so that he/she can
be aware of the vagaries of the patient's symptoms as well as their tolerance
to and acceptance of treatments. It is important from the standpoint of
patients, so that they can be assured that they have an understanding of the
diagnosis and how the condition does and might affect them. It is also crucial
for the safe use of medications.