Arthritis: An In-Depth Analysis

Arthritis is a common health condition affecting millions of people. It is characterized by inflammation and tenderness in one or more joints, leading to symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and swelling. 

As we dive deeper into understanding arthritis, we will explore its various types, causes, symptoms, treatments, and lifestyle adaptations for managing the condition.

Dr. Ulric Bigby offers both non-operative and minimally invasive treatment options for arthritis. 

Understanding Arthritis

Arthritis, derived from the Greek words "arthro" (joint) and "itis" (inflammation), refers to a group of diseases causing joint inflammation. These conditions are widespread, affecting nearly 60 million adults and 300,000 children in the U.S. alone. 

Arthritis is a very common health condition; however, just because it is common doesn’t mean you should have to live in pain. 

Types of Arthritis

There are over 100 types of arthritis, each with different causes and treatments. The most prevalent types include:

  1. Osteoarthritis (OA) - This is a degenerative joint disease, the most prevalent type of arthritis, especially affecting the elderly population. OA is characterized by the gradual degradation of cartilage, the cushioning tissue found in joints. As this cartilage wears away, the ends of the bones within the joint come into direct contact, causing pain, swelling, and loss of movement.
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) - An autoimmune disorder where the body's own immune system, which typically protects against harmful pathogens, mistakenly targets the joints. This results in inflammation, leading to painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. It's a chronic condition that can affect more than just your joints, it can also damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.
  3. Ankylosing Spondylitis - This is a less common form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine. It leads to inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine, causing pain and stiffness in the back and neck. Over time, the bones may fuse together, leading to a rigid spine.
  4. Gout - This is characterized by sudden, intense attacks of pain, redness, and tenderness, usually manifesting in the big toe. Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in your joint, causing inflammation and intense pain.
  5. Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) - This is the most common type of arthritis in children under the age of 16. JIA causes persistent joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Some types of JIA can cause serious complications, such as growth problems, joint damage, and eye inflammation.
  6. Psoriatic Arthritis - This is an inflammatory condition that affects people who have psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by red, scaly patches. It typically affects the large joints, especially those of the lower extremities and distal joints of the fingers and toes, and also can affect the back and sacroiliac joints of the pelvis.
  7. Reactive Arthritis - This is an uncommon form of arthritis that is caused by an infection in the body. Symptoms include joint pain and swelling, eye inflammation (conjunctivitis), and urinary tract symptoms. It usually improves within a few weeks or months but might leave residual joint stiffness and pain that might need further treatment.


Arthritis manifests through various signs and symptoms, depending on the specific type. Common symptoms include: 

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

In some severe cases, arthritis can affect the person's ability to perform everyday tasks and negatively impact their quality of life.


Arthritis can be caused by various factors depending on its type. For instance, OA is often caused by wear-and-tear damage to a joint's cartilage, either due to aging or joint injury. On the other hand, RA is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the joint's lining.

Risk Factors

Certain factors increase the risk of developing arthritis:

  1. Family History - Some types of arthritis are hereditary.
  2. Age - The risk of many types of arthritis increases with age.
  3. Sex - Women are more likely to develop RA, while gout is more common in men.
  4. Previous Joint Injury - Injured joints are more likely to develop arthritis later on.
  5. Obesity - Excess weight puts stress on joints, especially the knees, hips, and spine, increasing the risk of arthritis.


Severe arthritis can cause complications, making it difficult to perform daily tasks. It can affect weight-bearing joints, altering their alignment and shape, and may lead to discomfort in walking or sitting up straight. 


Treatment for arthritis aims to reduce symptoms and improve the patient's quality of life1. Management strategies may include:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription medicines
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Lifestyle adaptations, such as weight loss and exercise

Dr. Ulric Bigby, a skilled knee and hip surgeon, can help devise a personalized treatment plan to manage arthritis effectively.

Lifestyle Adaptations

Living with arthritis entails certain lifestyle adaptations to manage the symptoms effectively. Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to alleviate arthritis symptoms. Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, biking, stretching, and yoga can support the joints and strengthen the body muscles.

Weather and Arthritis

Some people may find their arthritis symptoms worsening in certain weather conditions. Cold and damp weather can stiffen the joints, while reduced activity during the rainy season and winter can also aggravate arthritis.

Arthritis Treatment in Maryland

Arthritis, though a common health condition, doesn't mean one has to live in pain. With proper management, individuals can continue to lead active and productive lives. 

To learn more about arthritis and other treatment options, schedule your consultation online or contact us at one of our three locations:

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