Arthritis describes a group of conditions that result in joint inflammation, usually causing pain and stiffness and arthritic pain can affect nearly every joint in the body and different parts of the joint, while rheumatism refers to any pain in your bones, muscles and joints.
Common arthritis symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, and may stay at the same severity for years.
Arthritis is a very common, non-contagious condition that specifically affects joints where two or more bones meet. It can cause damage to joint cartilage – the connective tissue in joints that absorbs the pressure created by activity and enables smooth movement – causing bones to move against each other and surrounding structures. Symptoms may include warmth and redness of the skin over the affected joint. Areas that are most often affected are the knees, hips, hands, knuckles, ankles, shoulder, back and neck. Arthritis can result in joint weakness and instability.
Arthritis can affect people from all backgrounds, ages and lifestyles, including children and young people. It occurs more frequently as people get older, but is not a consequence of age as many people believe. Two out of every three people with arthritis are between 15 and 60 years of age. It occurs more often among women than men.
Most types of arthritis are caused by a combination of many factors working together, although some arthritic conditions have no obvious cause. Some people may be more susceptible to certain arthritic conditions due to their genetic makeup. Other factors including previous injury, infection, smoking, abnormal metabolism, obesity, immune system dysfunction and physically demanding occupations can contribute to further increase the risk of arthritis.