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The term arthritis comes from the Greek “arthros,” which means “a joint and its attachments,” and “-itis” a suffix used in pathological terms to denote inflammation. This means arthritis is a term describing conditions causing pain, tenderness, stiffness and swelling in the joints throughout the body. It is estimated that nearly 50 million Americans experience various forms of arthritis. Arthritis is also a contributing factor to many physical disabilities.
In the United States, approximately 90 percent of people 55 years of age and older deal with some form of arthritis, and it is estimated that by the year 2020, more than 60 million people will have some form of arthritis.
What is osteoarthritis?
There are many types of arthritis, but the most common type, osteoarthritis, is also very painful and frequently limiting.
“Osteo-” means “bone,” and this type of arthritis mostly affects the weight-bearing joints, such as hips, knees, hands, feet and the spine. There are several types of joints in the body. The most common is the hinge joint. Another is the sliding joint, which is the type of joint seen in between the individual vertebrae of the spine. The articular surface is a joint’s contact area. Articular surfaces are covered by cartilage and lubricated by thick synovial fluid. Normally, joints move easily with little friction, but natural degeneration of the joint can cause the cartilage to become rough and worn out. This can result in raw joint halves rubbing against one another, causing inflammation, the formation of bone spurs, stiffness and pain. The lubricating synovial fluid of the joint can also become thinned and the joint’s synovial lining can become inflamed.
Approximately 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, mostly women and typically those more than 45 years old. This condition appears to affect all races equally.