Arthritis is a term for an
inflammation of any joint in the body. Arthritis comes from the Greek word "arthros" meaning "joint,"
and "-itis" meaning "inflammation."
"What causes a joint to become inflamed in the first place?"
If you were to hit my toe with a hammer, I would scream. But that's another story.
What normally occurs is that the injured toe swells, or increases in size. Swelling is but one of the components of what we
call inflammation. Inflammation is a reaction to injury. When an injured area is going
through the process of inflammation, it may not be
the most comfortable of times. However, the goal of inflammation is to promote healing.
During inflammation, or the inflammatory process, three things almost always occur.
These are known as the components of inflammation and they are as follows:
These components of inflammation were historically referred to as, rubor (redness),
tumor (swelling), and dolor (producing pain). You see, back in the "Latin days," they knew what it meant
to experience inflammation "first hand," when they were smacked with a book for not studying their Latin...
Obviously, causing inflammation to the area. But on a serious note, inflammation is merely the sum
of these 3 processes.
The swelling is caused by blood vessels widening, so that an increased amount of blood flow is able
to reach the damaged area. Blood brings nutrients, etc., to heal the injury.
The redness is observable because of the increase in blood flow. Additionally, you may develop
bruising, which is from the hemoglobin of broken down red blood cells.
The pain (dolor) is caused by the release of local chemical mediators.
These chemicals stimulate the sensory nerves in that area. This is the body's
way of saying, "leave the area alone while it's healing." The swelling also stimulates the nerves,
considering swollen tissue presses directly on the nerves and thus,
Now that you have a little better idea of what arthritis and inflammation are, let's discuss a few of the main
Rheumatoid arthritis- This is a type of joint inflammation whereby the immune system reacts against
components of the joint. This can be disabling, and requires careful medical intervention.
osteoarthritis - This is a type of joint inflammation from wear and tear over time. For example, if you
were to jog several miles per day for most of your life, your knees and possibly hip joint, would
experience some destruction from the repeated rubbing together of the bones and cartilage making up the
For both of these types of arthritis, if the joint is severely damaged, the patient may benefit from
a joint replacement. This is a quite successful surgical procedure, whereby the damaged joint
is removed and replaced with an artificial joint.