The terms "arthritis" and "rheumatic disease" refer to more than 100 diseases that cause inflammation, pain and limited joint mobility throughout the body.
- By 2020, it is estimated that 59.4 million Americans (18.2%) will have arthritis.
- Estimated total costs of arthritis (medical care and lost productivity) range from $65 billion to $82.4 billion per year.
Arthritis is essentially a disease where beneficial process has gone awry—the inflammatory system that normally acts to clear infected areas turns on the body's own tissue. Excessive inflammation in the joints produces the swelling and pain that characterize arthritis. The root causes of arthritis are unknown, although some studies suggest it can be triggered by certain infections. Primarily a condition of aging, arthritis usually appears in middle age, but it is also seen in children and younger adults. Treatment typically consists of using aspirin and other analgesics, drugs that modify the immune system, and in extreme cases, surgery of affected joints.