The most commonly diagnosed form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, caused by normal wear and tear of aging. However, rheumatoid arthritis – in which the autoimmune system attacks the bones and joints – can affect anyone, at any age, or of any race.
Arthritis, which literally means inflammation of a joint (where two or more bones meet), actually refers to more than 100 different diseases and is one category of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases may cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and other supporting body structures, such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
However, rheumatic diseases can also affect other areas of the body, including internal organs. Some rheumatic diseases involve connective tissues, while others may be caused by an autoimmune disorder, which means the body's immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues.
Severe advanced osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can be debilitating, and in acute cases surgery may be necessary to help you regain normal function and return to an active lifestyle.
The following are the most common symptoms of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases:
- Chronic pain or tenderness in the joint(s)
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness that lasts for at least one hour in the early morning
- Limited movement in the affected joint(s)
- Swelling in the joint(s)
- Warmth and redness in the joint area
Diagnosing arthritis and other rheumatic diseases is often difficult, as many symptoms are similar among the different diseases. Our Rheumatology Program is dedicated to providing the diagnostic procedures and interventional therapies needed to slow or halt the progression of all types of rheumatic conditions.
Our multidisciplinary team approach is particularly important in managing the symptoms of arthritis because many symptoms are chronic and change in severity over time. To make an accurate diagnosis, our physicians may need to review your medical history, perform a physical examination, and obtain laboratory tests, X-rays, and other imaging tests.
When reviewing your medical history, your physician may ask the following questions:
- Where is the pain?
- How long have you had the pain?
- When does the pain occur, and how long does it last?
- What were you doing when you first noticed the pain?
- How intense is the pain?
- What tends to relieve the pain?
- Have you had any illnesses or injuries that may explain the pain?
- Is there a family history of arthritis or other rheumatic diseases?
- What medication(s) are you currently taking?