Believe it or not there are actually over 100 various types of the diseases and conditions which are classified as arthritic.
The most typical of these to be found in people is osteoarthritis which affects around 27 million Americans alone.
Coming up for a close second are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout.
The actual meaning of the word arthritis is inflammation in a joint. This inflammation is a natural reaction to use or injury and will often include swelling, pain and stiffness.
In some cases, or types of arthritis, this inflammation also produces degeneration and deformity in the joint. Inside a joint where two or more bones come together there is a covering with smooth spongy material called cartilage.
This cartilage allows the joints to move without pain. There is also a slippery fluid called synovial fluid that also helps to reduce friction.
When arthritis happens in a joint it becomes inflamed, painful, stiff and sometimes individuals have difficulty moving. Arthritis can also affect other parts of the body such as the skin, internal organs and eyes.
The exact cause may not be known for most of the different types of arthritis but researchers have identified several risk factors.
A risk factor is the behavior or traits of an individual which increases their chance of developing the disease.
Risk factors for arthritis include obesity (being overweight puts additional stress on the joints), age (the risk increases with age), gender (arthritis appears to occur more frequently in women than men), and work factors (repetitive movement, heavy lifting or frequent injury can lead to arthritic changes).
Arthritis affects approximately 70 million Americans. Or, put another way, it affects approximately 1 out of every three people. It is a major cause of lost work and disability.
It can affect people of all ages but is most common older adults. Diagnosis is often accomplished through thorough medical evaluation and history, physical exam, blood tests and imaging studies.
The goal of treatment is to provide relief from pain, increased mobility in the joints and increased strain around the joints. Physicians may recommend medication, hot or cold compresses, exercise, joint protection or surgery.
With early diagnosis most types are managed well and pain and disability is minimized. Although it cannot be prevented there are steps which will help reduce your risk or prevent permanent joint damage.
By maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet and protecting your joints at work you reduce your risk of developing arthritis and prevent major joint deformity.
Below is a list of the known arthritic conditions according to the arthritis foundation:
Adult onset Still’s disease
Calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD)
Crystal deposition disease
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis
Degenerative joint disease
Diabetic finger sclerosis
Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH)
Discoid lupus erythematosus
Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy
Erosive inflammatory osteoarthritis
Exercise-induced compartment syndrome
Familial Mediterranean fever
Foreign body synovitis
Giant cell arteritis
Hepatitis B surface antigen disease
Immune complex disease
Juvenile ankylosing spondylitis
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
Medial plica syndrome
Metastatic carcinomatous arthritis
Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)
Multiple epiphyseal dysplasia
Myofascial pain syndrome
Pachydermoperiostosis Paget’s disease of bone
Patellofemoral pain syndrome
Pigmented villonodular synovitis
Posterior tibial tendinitis
Prosthetic joint infectio
Reactive arthritis/Reiter’s syndrome
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome
Rotator cuff tendinitis
Sickle cell arthropathy
Slipped capital femoral epiphysis
Subacute cutaneous lupus
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Arthritis of Ulcerative colitis
Undifferentiated connective tissue syndrome (UCTS)
The Symptoms of Arthritis
Everyone has aches and pains, especially as we age. So what differentiates an ache or pain that should be evaluated by your doctor and that which you can wait out?
Any joint pain that is associated with arthritis does not disappear with a couple of days of rest. Most aches and pains are fleeting or athletic injuries show progressive healing process while pain associated with an arthritic condition is more chronic.
Osteoarthritis is the most common diagnosis of arthritis in the world today. Progressive stiffness without any chills, noticeable swelling or fever is usually associated with the gradual onset of osteoarthritis in individuals who are older than 40 or 50 years old.
On the other hand, painful swelling, inflammation and stiffness, especially upon awakening, can be the signs of rheumatoid arthritis.
Gout is an arthritic condition caused by the build up of uric acid in the blood. This causes urate crystals to form in a joint, most commonly the big toe.
A flare-up of gout often happens overnight and quickly. Children who suffer from intermittent fever, loss of appetite, weight loss and a blotchy rash may be exhibiting the symptoms of a type of rheumatoid arthritis.
As you can see there are multiple different types of symptoms that accompany arthritis because there are multiple different types of arthritic conditions. However, the one commonality between these diagnoses and symptoms is pain and stiffness.
In some individuals this will be accompanied by swelling, redness and warmth, in others it will be accompanied by fever and still others will be accompanied by severe pain or blotchy rashes over the body.
Some symptoms of arthritis are more severe after exercise but more commonly arthritic conditions become more stiff and painful when the individual has been resting for a period of time.
This means that first thing in the morning, getting up from the dinner table or after resting in the evening on the couch, stiffness and pain will be greater.
Symptoms also include limited function of the joints that is related to the stiffness and pain.
Arthritis is considered a rheumatic disease which is a nonspecific term for a medical condition which affects the joints and connective tissue.
This means that some arthritic conditions will also affect connective tissue in the internal organs as well as the joints. This results in fever, glandular swelling, fatigue, weight loss and abnormalities in the lungs, heart or kidneys.
Many of the arthritic conditions involve the breakdown of cartilage which protects the joints and allows for smooth motion. In some cases it is the result of an auto immune disease in which the body attacks itself. In other conditions it is a general “wear and tear”, infection by bacteria or viruses or the result of a broken bone.
Researchers have identified several risk factors for individuals to develop painful joints which include being overweight, a previously injured joint, use of joints in repetitive action such as baseball players, ballet dancers and construction workers, age and depending upon the condition, gender.
Your physician will include a specific and thorough medical history as well as physical examination, blood tests and imaging studies to differentiate the exact cause of the joint pain.
In many cases you will be referred to a rheumatologist who is a doctor specializing in the treatment of connective tissue diseases.
This specialist will be able to accurately diagnose your condition and make specific recommendations for your individual case.
Like many other diseases, arthritic conditions respond well to early diagnosis and treatment.
Many arthritic conditions are also progressive, which means that they continue to get worse as time goes on.
The earlier that a diagnosis and accurate treatment recommendations have been made the better the chance there is for reduced deformity of the joints and improved overall function for the individual.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Risk Factors
Arthritis Foundation: Types of Arthritis
University of Maryland Medical Center: Osteoarthritis