Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

 “Arthritis” is not a single disease; it has become an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are over a 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, which although very common, are not well understood.  Arthritis is said to be one of the leading causes of disability, affecting people of all ages, sexes and races. It is most common among women and does occur more frequently as people get older.

Symptoms may come and go and are commonly joint swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years but can progress or get worse over time. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. 

Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.

Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints.

Treatments vary depending on the type of arthritis. The main goals of arthritis treatments are to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Managing symptoms

As well as medical treatments, there are many things you can do to help yourself manage your arthritis.

You might not always feel like exercising if you have arthritis. And you might be worried that exercising will make your pain or your condition worse.

However, exercise can make symptoms such as pain and swelling better. There are several reasons why this is the case:

  • Your muscles will become stronger. This will provide better support to the joint.
  • Your joints will become supple and less likely to become stiff.
  • Your joints will be able to maintain their range of movement.
  • Exercise improves your overall health and fitness and can help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise leads to the release of chemicals in the body called endorphins. These are painkillers produced naturally by the body. Releasing them into the blood through exercise can make you feel good.
  • Exercising regularly can help you get good sleep, which can help the body repair itself.

Some Types

Osteoarthritis | Rheumatoid arthritis | Thumb arthritis | Ankylosing spondylitis | Gout | Juvenile | idiopathic arthritis | Psoriatic arthritis | Reactive arthritis | Septic arthritis


The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion

Having a good understanding of your condition will help you know about your treatment options and why exercise and other self-management methods are important. It will also mean you’re in a good position to get the most out of your appointments with healthcare professionals.


Meet Dr Peter Smith, a leading Orthopaedic Surgeon operating from the Mediclinic Milnerton in Cape Town, Western Cape. His practice is situated in the heart of this seaside town.  Dr Peter Smith not only offers patients the full spectrum of professional orthopaedic treatments, but specialises in total knee replacement, total hip replacement, sports injuries and the latest arthroscopic surgery techniques and computer guided surgery. He gained extensive experience in the latest arthroplasty techniques during his stay of 6 years in Australia where he performed more than a hundred primary and revision hip and knee replacements cases in a year.


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