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ArthritisArthritis is the term used to describe painful conditions of joints and bones. There are two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the main differences between the two types of arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the more common form of arthritis. Cartilage, or the connective tissue, between the bones gradually wastes away, and this can lead to painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints. It may also cause joints to fall out of their natural positions (misalignment). The most frequently affected joints are in the hands, spine, knees and hips.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a more severe but less common condition. The body’s immune system attacks and destroys the joint, causing pain and swelling. It can lead to reduction of movement, and the breakdown of bone and cartilage. Both types of arthritis are usually associated with older people.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of all forms of arthritis include: stiffness, pain, restricted movements of the joints, swelling, and warmth and redness of the skin over the joint.

What causes arthritis?

The cause of osteoarthritis is not fully known. One theory is that some people are genetically predisposed to developing the disease. Factors that may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis include: obesity, which puts added strain on joints, and jobs or activities that involve repetitive movements of a particular joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a fault in the immune system that makes the body to attack its own tissues.

Can the illness be treated?

Everyone experiences arthritis in a different way so individual treatment is usually given. Your doctor may prescribe you drugs and a physiotherapist may give you exercises to do.

Is there any way to prevent the illness?

Keeping your weight under control may help to ease pressure on your joints and reduce the severity of osteoarthritis. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, will help to prevent osteoarthritis by increasing the strength of the muscles that support your joints. Good posture can assist the strengthening of healthy joint structures. Having physiotherapy, and using a walking stick, can help prevent existing osteoarthritis from becoming worse. There is no known way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis.