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Biology and Genetics - Arthritis Risk Factors

There are over 100 different types of arthritis ranging from relatively mild to very severe forms but there is no known cure, making it one of the most common chronic conditions in Canada. Improvements in our understanding of the different conditions and their associated risk factors can help in the development of better treatments and medications. 

Arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe more than 100 conditions that affect the joints, ligaments, tendons, bones and other components of the body. Arthritis is one of Canada’s most common chronic conditions and is a leading cause of pain, physical disability and use of health care services. There are over 100 different types of arthritis ranging from relatively mild forms of tendonitis and bursitis to more systemic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Certain conditions with arthritic components, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, also involve the immune system and various internal organs. Typically, arthritis conditions are characterized by pain and stiffness in and around one or more joints. However, the pattern, severity and location of symptoms vary depending on the specific form of the disease. Symptoms can develop gradually over time or suddenly. Among many aspects of life, arthritis disability has an effect on leisure, social and labour force participation at all age levels. Arthritis is also one of the most costly diseases from an economic point of view. Since arthritis is not usually life-threatening, health care providers, and even those who have arthritis, often dismiss it as just “aches and pains” and an unavoidable part of aging. Thus, persons with arthritis often do not obtain the proper and adequate help that they need as it is not seen as a priority. The shortage of available information on the effect of arthritis, as an umbrella disease,  has added to this burden for Canadians. There is no known cure for arthritis, but improvements in our understanding of the different conditions can contribute to the development of better medications and treatments.

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Contributors:  Jelena Ivanovic

Last Reviewed:  June 4, 2012


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