Disease at a Glance: Arthritis

Arthritis literally means joint (arth) inflammation (itis). Put simply, it is a degenerative condition that affects the joints, i.e. where two or more bones meet to allow body movement. The severity of this condition varies from person to person, but over time the joints tend to lose their range of motion and can even become deformed in some extreme cases. There is no cure for the disease; medication is often prescribed to reduce inflammation. There are thee main types of arthritis:


Osteoarthritis: This is a chronic condition in which the joint’s cartilage degenerates. Cartilage is a spongy material that covers the ends of the bones, cushioning it from shocks and impact. Because the cartilage is damaged it can no longer protect the bones, which rub against each other causing pain & stiffness. It’s not known what causes the cartilage to break down, but doctors attribute it to a variety of factors like obesity, old age, repeated stress and trauma. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but mostly it occurs in weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips. Morning stiffness (of the affected joint) that improves later in the day is a common symptom of Osteoarthritis. 


Common Symptoms

Affected joint is painful
Early morning stiffness that doesn't last for a long time
Reduced range of motion & use of the joint
Joint Deformity


Rheumatoid Arthritis: Unlike Osteoarthritis which is caused by the wear and tear of the joints, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto-immune disease  wherein  the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the joints for no apparent reason, resulting in inflammation. It is not known why the immune system, whose function is to protect our body by attacking harmful bacteria and virus, mistakenly targets healthy tissue. Rheumatoid Arthritis manifests itself with signs of inflammation – the affected area is usually swollen, warm and tender. Some doctors say morning stiffness that lasts for a very long time is what distinguishes Rheumatoid Arthritis from Osteoarthritis. 


Common Symptoms

Affected joint is swollen, tender & painful
Early morning stiffness that lasts for a long time
Reduced range of motion & use of the joint
Joint Deformity


Juvenile Arthritis: Any form of arthritis affecting children below 16 years of age is termed Juvenile Arthritis. Affected areas can include smaller joints like hands & feet as well as weight-bearing joints like knees and hips. Treatment includes pain management and physical therapy. There’s no cure for the disease.


Key Diagnostic Tests: ANA (Anti-Nuclear Antibodies), Rheumatoid Factor, ANCA (Anti-Neutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibodies), HLA Tissue Typing, Calcium, C-Reactive Protein and Bone Density Test


Additional Tests: Uric Acid, ESR, Serum Creatinine


Recommended Check-up: Physical Examination & Imaging of the affected area (X-ray / CT scan / MRI)


Doctor Specialty: Rheumatologist / Orthopaedic Surgeon


Common Products: Pain relief spray, gel or topical ointments, massage oil, mobility aids, heat therapy, etc.



1) Arthritis Foundation (
2) US National Library of Medicine (
3) Arthritis Foundation of India Trust (


Related Feature Articles

  • How to Stay on Top of Arthritis and Prevent It? : Painful, swollen joints can affect your quality of life and even lead to deformity   Arthritis affects 15% of the Indian population, i.e. over 180 million people in India! It can strike anyone, regardless of gender, economic status or life.... Read More

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