In the most simple terms, arthritis is inflammation of a joint. But there’s nothing simple about the pain or loss of mobility that can be associated with it. In fact, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Although it can affect anyone, arthritis is mainly found in adults.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, typically affects older people. The cartilage that normally cushions and protects the bones of the joint breaks down over time. Eventually, bone rubs against bone, opening the door to inflammation and other mechanical problems like bone spurs.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disease process that may affect the entire body. The body’s immune response attacks the soft tissue in the joints causing inflammation and pain. Over time, the inflammation leads to compromises in the joint’s cartilage and bone.
Sometimes, when cartilage in the joints is damaged by a trauma like a fracture or dislocation, arthritis may develop. Even properly treated injured joints are much more likely to develop arthritis than joints that have not been injured.