Arthritis and joint inflammation is a rheumatic disease that causes inflammation, a swelling that can include pain or redness; and loss of function of one or more connecting or supporting structures of the body. Overtime, the joint can become severely damaged. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Some kinds of arthritis can cause problems in other organs, such as your eyes, or in your chest. It can affect your skin, too.

There are several kinds of arthritis. The two most common ones are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis:

· Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body's own defense system doesn't work properly. It affects joints, bones, and organs--often the hands and feet. You may feel sick or tired, and you may have a fever. Other conditions can also cause arthritis. Some include:

§ Gout, in which crystals build up in the joints. It usually affects the big toe.

§ Lupus, in which the body's defense system can harm the joints, the heart, the skin, the kidneys, and other organs.

§ Viral hepatitis (VY-rul HEP-ah-TY-tis), in which an infection of the liver can cause arthritis.

While the cause remains elusive, doctors suspect that genetic factors are important in rheumatoid arthritis. Genetic factors determine susceptibility and environmental factors in lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. Recent studies have begun to tease out the genetic characteristics that can be passed from generation to generation. However, the inherited trait alone does not cause the illness. Researchers think this trait, along with some other unknown factor-probably in the environment-triggers the disease.

Another factor involved in certain kinds of arthritis is gender. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis scleroderma, and fibromyalgia are found to be more common in women. This suggests that hormones may have a role in the development of these conditions.

· Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and usually comes with age and most often affects the fingers, knees, and hips. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows an injury to a joint. For example, a young person might hurt his knee badly playing soccer. Then, years after the knee has apparently healed, he might get arthritis in his knee joint.

There are certain risk factors that have been identified for several types of arthritis. For people with osteoarthritis it has been found that cartilage weakness is inherited and that excessive stress on a joint or a repeated injury may play a role.

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