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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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The Basics of Arthritis

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Arthritis is a broad term that covers a group of over 100 diseases. It has everything to do with your joints -- the places where your bones connect -- such as your wrists, knees, hips, or fingers. But some types of arthritis can also affect other connective tissues and organs, including your skin.

About 1 out of 5 adults have some form of the condition. It can happen to anyone, but it becomes more common as you age.


With many forms of arthritis, the cause is unknown. But some things can raise your chances of getting it.

  • Age. As you get older, your joints tend to get worn down. 
  • Gender. Most types of arthritis are more common among women, except for gout.
  • Genes. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis are linked to certain genes.
  • Excess weight. Carrying extra pounds makes arthritis in the knee start sooner and get worse faster.
  • Injuries. They can cause joint damage that can bring on some types of the condition.
  • Infection. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi can infect joints and trigger inflammation.
  • Work. If you go hard on your knees at work -- knee bends and squats -- you might be more likely to get osteoarthritis.


Arthritis mainly causes pain around your joints. You might also have:

  • One or more joints that are swollen or stiff
  • Joints that look red or feel warm to the touch
  • Tenderness
  • Trouble moving
  • Problems doing everyday tasks

The symptoms can be constant, or they may come and go. They can range from mild to severe.

More-severe cases may lead to permanent joint damage.

Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common kinds.

In osteoarthritis,the cushions on the ends of your bones, called cartilage, wear away. That makes the bones rub against each other. You might feel pain in your fingers, knees, or hips.

It usually happens as you age. But if underlying causes are to blame, it can begin much sooner. For example, an athletic injury like a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or a fracture near a joint can lead to arthritis.

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