Arthritis is a term for a group of often painful medical conditions that affect the body’s musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system enables the body to move and includes the skeleton, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, which can occur in people of all ages, races and genders. It tends to affect Caucasians more than other ethnic groups. Two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It involves the breakdown over time of joint cartilage (a type of cushion under the skin that surrounds the ankles, knees, wrists, and other joints), resulting in pain from bone rubbing against bone. It is often caused or made worse by risk factors such as obesity, a history of joint injury, and age. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation (swelling) in the joints, causing pain, stiffness, warmth, and even severe joint damage. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not fully understood, but it is considered to be an autoimmune disease, meaning that it happens when the body’s natural disease defense system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Juvenile arthritis is a general term used to describe the many types of arthritis that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.

Faculty and staff of the UAB Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology program address problems involving the joints, muscles, soft tissue, and connective tissue, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, vasculitis, and gout, as well as autoimmune diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system. Our program has been ranked among the best in the nation for more than 20 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, and it handles more than 20,000 patient visits annually. It is staffed by practitioners and specialists in multiple fields, making it easier for physicians to collaborate on diagnoses and treatments.

In addition to outpatient rheumatology services, UAB Rheumatology provides advanced care for hospitalized patients with known or suspected rheumatologic conditions. Our rheumatology consultation service includes comprehensive evaluation and treatment recommendations for patients at UAB Hospital and UAB Hospital-Highlands, the Birmingham VA Medical Center, Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, and other UAB-affiliated hospitals. Our patients also benefit from the UAB Comprehensive Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Autoimmunity Center, which is an interdisciplinary research center focused on better understanding the causes, processes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and related diseases.

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