Arthritis is one of the most common medical problems and the No. 1 cause of disability in America. The word arthritis is a blend of the Greek words arthron, for joint, and itis, for inflammation. In other words, arthritis literally means "joint inflammation." Although arthritis is often referred to as one disease, it's not. Arthritis has more than 100 forms.

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis affects nearly 21 million people in the United States. It's characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage and may affect any joint in your body, including those in your fingers, hips, knees, lower back and feet. Initially it may strike only one joint. But if your fingers are affected, multiple hand joints may become arthritic.

There's no cure for osteoarthritis, but treatments today are far ahead of what was available just a few years ago. In addition, how well you live with arthritis often depends on your actions and attitude. If you actively manage your arthritis, you may be able to gain control over your pain.