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"Arthritis" is a term referring to more than 100 kinds of diseases that affect the joints. Some common symptoms include joint swelling, lasting joint pain, and warmth in a joint. In most cases, the cause of the condition is unknown. However, there are several risk factors that make a person more likely to develop it. Effectively preventing the condition involves knowing your risk factors, monitoring your health, and making lifestyle changes.

What Is Arthritis?

"Arthritis" (which literally means joint inflammation) is not a single disease or simply a word healthcare providers use when they talk about painful, stiff joints. It is actually a term used to describe more than 100 kinds of diseases that affect the joints.
The condition can attack joints in almost any part of the body. Some forms of arthritis cause changes you can see and feel -- such as swelling, warmth, and redness in your joints. With some types, the pain and swelling last only a short time, but can be quite bad. Other types cause less troublesome symptoms, but still slowly damage your joints. Most types of arthritis are chronic, which means they can go on for a long time.

What Causes It?

Despite a lot of research, scientists still know very little about the different types of arthritis. In fact, scientists have been able to figure out the specific causes of only a few types. For some types, scientists know risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop the disease -- but not the actual cause or causes of it.
(Click Causes of Arthritis or Arthritis Risk Factors for more information.)

Types of Arthritis

With so many different types of arthritis, healthcare providers often find it easier to separate them into categories. Common categories include:
  • Noninflammatory
  • Inflammatory
  • Infectious
  • Hemorrhagic.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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