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The term arthritis is used to describe more than 100 conditions that affect joints, the tissues which surround joints, and other connective tissue. These conditions range from relatively mild forms of tendonitis and bursitis to 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 or suddenly.

In 2007-08, over 4.2 million Canadians (16%) aged 15 years and older reported having arthritis.  With the aging population, this number is expected to increase to approximately 7 million (20%) by 2031. Although arthritis is most prevalent among seniors, it is not confined to the elderly population and many are affected in the prime of their lives. There is no known cure for arthritis, but improvements in our understanding of the different conditions continue to lead to better medications and treatments for the disease.