Glossary C

Browse the glossary by selecting a letter or by entering an arthritis-related term:


The loss of appetite, muscle mass and weight resulting from chronic disease. Cachexia is associated with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis


A pain-blocking substance derived from cayenne pepper that is the active ingredient in some analgesic rubs.

Carpometacarpal (CMC) joint

Also called the basal joint, it is the joint where the thumb attaches to the wrist – the joint of the hand most commonly affected by arthritis.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

A condition in which the median nerve, located on the thumb side of the palm, becomes compressed in the space between the bones of the wrist through which the nerves and tendons run. It can cause tingling of the middle and index finger and weakness of the thumb.



A smooth, rubbery tissue that covers the ends of the bones at the joints, acting as a shock absorber and allowing the joint to move smoothly.

Celiac disease

A chronic inflammatory disorder in which the body cannot effectively digest fats or wheat gluten. The condition, which results in a distended abdomen and loose, fatty stools, is associated with several autoimmune diseases. Symptoms can include diarrheah, excessive flatulence, abdominal pain and bloating, weight loss, anemia, osteoporosis, easy bruising, muscle weakness and numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.


Practice of healing based on the theory that illness stems from misalignment of the spinal cord. The treatments often involve spinal manipulation.


Part of a large protein molecule (a proteoglycan) that gives cartilage elasticity. Sold as a dietary supplement, chondroitin is extracted from animal cartilage such as cow tracheas or shark cartilage. It is widely promoted for relief from osteoarthritis pain and often used in conjunction with another supplement, glucosamine.


A threadlike structure found in the nuclei of all cells that transmits hereditary information when the cell divides. Chromosomes contain the genes, which are made up of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Forty-six chromosomes normally exist in each human body cell, except for eggs or sperm, which contain 23.

Chronic illness

An illness that lasts for a long time, often a lifetime, whereas an acute illness comes on suddenly and resolves in a short amount of time.


Chemicals in the body that aid immunity. When antibodies combine with invading agents, the complement system is activated to help . Complement levels are often low in people with lupus, for example.


A large protein that is the primary component of cartilage, tendons, skin and other connective tissues

Computed tomography (CT) scans

An imaging technique that provides the doctor with a three-dimensional picture of the bone. It also shows “slices” of the bone, making the picture much clearer than X-rays or bone scans.

Connective tissue disease

Any of a group of diseases characterized by degeneration of collagen – a key component of connective tissue, such as skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Connective tissue diseases include scleroderma, lupus, polymyositis and dermatomyositis.


A group of hormones, including cortisol, which are produced by the adrenal glands. Some regulate the body’s fluid balance; others influence the body use of fat and sugar (glucose). Corticosteroids can be synthetically produced and have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. They are not the same as the dangerous performance-enhancing drugs that athletes use to promote strength and endurance.

COX-2 inhibitor

A type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) designed to be safer for the stomach than other NSAIDs. COX-2 inhibitors work by inhibiting hormonelike substances in the body that cause pain and inflammation without interfering with similar substances that protect the stomach lining. Celecoxib (Celebrex) is the only COX-2 inhibitor currently available. Two others, rofecoxib (Vioxx) and valdecoxib (Bextra), were withdrawn from the market when it was discovered they increased risks from heart disease.

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