arthritis, painful inflammation of a joint or joints of the body, usually producing heat and redness. There are many kinds of arthritis. In its various forms, arthritis disables more people than any other chronic disorder. The condition can be brought about by nerve impairment, increased or decreased function of the endocrine glands, or degeneration due to age. Less frequently, it is caused by infection (tuberculosis, gonorrhea, Lyme disease, rheumatic fever).
Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease of unknown cause, is the most crippling form. Women are much more susceptible to it than men. Although rheumatoid arthritis usually appears between the ages of 25 and 50, it also occurs in children. Osteoarthritis, the most common type, occurs usually in people over 50. It tends to be more severe when the joints have been strained by obesity or overwork. Gout, the third most common form of arthritis, affects men almost exclusively.
Symptomatic treatment for arthritis includes use of heat, physical therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as a cox-2 inhibitor (Celebrex), aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Remission of symptoms can sometimes be achieved with methotrexate, gold salts, penicillamine, and short-term cortisone, but they often have undesirable side effects. Orthopedic surgery, including artificial joint implantation, may be done in severe cases.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.