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
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.