There's a very big chance that at least one of your grandparents, or an old person you know, has arthritis. You've heard about it, you know it's painful... but did you know that you probably don't understand it that well?
Arthritis is actually not a single disease; it's an informal way of referring to joint pain or disease. There are also more than 100 different type of arthritis and related conditions, and it's one of the leading causes of disability.
Even if it's better known in older people, arthritis can actually strike all ages and genders; and since there are so many different types, we'll try to cover the 3 most common ones:
Degenerative Arthritis: It happens when the cartilage wears away, and bones start to rub against each other, causing stiffness and chronic pain. If the symptoms are mild or moderate, they can be improved through maintaining a healthy weight and strengthening the muscles by alternating moderate exercise with rest, and taking some anti-inflammatory medicine. If the symptoms are severe, joint replacement surgery may be necessary.
Inflammatory Arthritis: It happens when the immune system makes a mistake and starts attacking the joints, causing permanent inflammation. The most notable example of this is the widely known rheumatoid arthritis. Its cause is a combination of genes and lifestyle (smoking can trigger it, for example). It should be detected early and treated aggressively to prevent further joint damage and put the disease in remission.
Infectious Arthritis: A variety of bacteria, viruses and fungi can cause inflammation in the joints, most commonly salmonella (food poisoning), gonorrhea (STD), and Hepatitis C (blood to blood contamination). Timely treatment with antibiotics can clear the joint infection in many cases, but sometimes that doesn't work and the arthritis becomes chronic.
All in all, a good lifestyle, like with all other diseases, can help prevent, delay, or ease the symptoms of arthritis. So if you know you have a problematic lifestyle, or a family history of this disease, take extra care and do regular checkups, so that you can minimize pain and spare yourself all the problems that can arise from it later in life.