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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis or joint inflammation is the single greatest cause of chronic pain and disability. 

  • Arthritis includes more than 100 diseases and conditions:
    • Most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis; and
    • Other common rheumatic conditions include gout, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Affects joints, surrounding and other connective tissue;
  • Causes chronic pain, aching, stiffness and/or swelling in and around a joint;
  • May involve vital organs with systemic disorders;
  • Affects all race and ethnic groups;
  • Risk of arthritis increases with age and is more common among women than men; however, approximately one in every 250 children have some form of arthritis or rheumatic condition ; and
  • More than half of adults with diabetes or heart disease also have arthritis. 

In 2009, an estimated 49.9 million adults (just over one in five adults) in the United States reported being told by a doctor that they had some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia.   Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States , limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults.

Pennsylvania reports 31 percent or over 2.95 million Pennsylvania adults were told by a doctor they have arthritis; of this group:

  • 75 percent had pain, swelling, or stiffness around their joints in the past 30 days;
  • 35 percent reported their usual activity was limited due to arthritis; and
  • Arthritis is seen with other conditions that may include lupus.

Risk Factors

There are many types of arthritis, each with different symptoms and treatments.  Most types are chronic or go on for a long time.   Risk factors are characteristics or behaviors that increase a person's chance of developing arthritis.  Some risk factors you can't control (non-modifiable) and others you can control (modifiable).

Risk factors you can't control:

  • Age: risk increases with age;
  • Female: risk is higher among women than men;  and
  • Genetic predisposition: risk increases with family history of arthritis

Risk factors you can control:

  • Weight: risk increases among persons more than 10 pounds overweight;
  • Injury: risk increases among persons who have had past injuries to their joints;
  • Infections: risk increases among persons with certain types of bacterial and viral infections; and
  • Certain occupations: risk increases among persons whose work-related activities involve heavy physical activity or require repetitive motion, i.e. factory work, farming, and construction.


Arthritis can attack joints in almost any part of the body.   Many people start to feel pain and stiffness in their bodies over time. Sometimes their hands or knees or shoulders get sore, are hard to move, and may become swollen. Others have pain and swelling that lasts for a short time but will still need attention. Other types cause less troublesome symptoms but still slowly damage your joints.

You might have some form of arthritis if you have:

  •  Lasting joint pain;
  •  Joint swelling or stiffness;
  •  Warmth and redness in a joint;
  •  Tenderness or pain when touching a joint; and
  •  Problems using or moving a joint normally.

Only a doctor can tell if you have arthritis or a related condition and what to do about it. It's important not to wait. Before suggesting treatment, your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. You may also be asked to have x-rays or laboratory tests done.