Many people think arthritis is a single disease, but it's not. Arthritis literally means "joint inflammation" and refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and related conditions that are associated with joint pain, joint stiffness and swelling.
Certain arthritic conditions can affect parts of the body other than the joints. For example, tendons, muscles, and skin can become inflamed and painful. Some rheumatic conditions can affect internal organs and result in debilitating or even life-threatening complications.
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While they are both classified as arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are very different and must be distinguished.
Many people believe arthritis is a disease that only affects old people. In fact, arthritis can affect anyone at any age, including children. The incidence of arthritis increases with age, but nearly 3 out of 5 people with arthritis are under age 65.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, many types of arthritis can cause irreversible damage to the joints, bones, organs, and skin. It is essential to be diagnosed early in the course of the disease and treated appropriately. Knowing your type of arthritis is essential.
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, results from wear and tear on the joint. Cartilage damage develops which can lead to decreased joint function. The first signs of osteoarthritis are:
- joint pain
- joint tenderness
- joint swelling
- decreased range of motion
Usually, osteoarthritis onset is subtle and gradual, involving one or only a few joints. The joints most often affected are the:
The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age. Other risk factors include: joint injury, obesity, and repetitive use of the joint.
- Osteoarthritis Screening Quiz
- How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
- Facts About Osteoarthritis
- Test Your Knowledge - Osteoarthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which occurs when the body's own immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium (cell lining inside the joint). Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis, chronic and potentially disabling. The first signs of the disease are:
- joint pain
- joint stiffness
- joint swelling
- loss of joint function
While the cause remains elusive, doctors suspect that genetic factors play some role in predisposition to the disease. But there is more than genetic predisposition. It is thought that there are also environmental triggers for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Screening Quiz
- How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Test Your Knowledge - Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis - Explained With Pictures
Juvenile arthritis is a general term for all types of arthritis that occur in children, 16 years old or younger. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis in children. There are three major types of JRA:
- Polyarticular (affecting many joints)
- Pauciarticular (pertaining to only a few joints)
- Systemic (affecting the entire body)
Signs and symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis vary from child to child. No single test can conclusively establish a diagnosis. Juvenile arthritis must be present consistently for six or more consecutive weeks before a correct diagnosis can be made.
Psoriatic arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis. About 5% of people with psoriasis (a chronic skin disease) also develop psoriatic arthritis. In psoriatic arthritis, there is inflammation of the joints and sometimes the spine.
- Psoriatic Arthritis Screening Quiz
- How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
- Facts About Psoriatic Arthritis
- Test Your Knowledge - Psoriatic Arthritis
Fibromyalgia syndrome is a painful condition characterized by:
Fibromyalgia is characterized by pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Fibromyalgia is a type of soft tissue or muscular rheumatism and does not cause joint deformities.
- Fibromyalgia Screening Quiz
- How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
- Facts About Fibromyalgia
- Test Your Knowledge - Fibromyalgia
Gout is a painful type of arthritis that causes sudden, severe attacks of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling in the joints, especially the big toe. The pain and swelling associated with gout are caused by uric acid crystals that precipitate out of the blood and are deposited in the joint.
Pseudogout / CPPD
Pseudogout, which is also known as Calcium Pyrophosphate Dihydrate Deposition Disease (CPPD), is caused by deposits of calcium phosphate crystals (not uric acid) in the joints. CPPD is often mistaken for gouty arthritis. Since CPPD is a different disease than gout, treatment is not the same.
Scleroderma is a disease of the body's connective tissue that causes thickening and hardening of the skin. It can also affect the:
- blood vessels
- internal organs
There are two types of scleroderma: localized and generalized (systemic).
- Scleroderma Screening Quiz
- Facts About Scleroderma
- Test Your Knowledge - Scleroderma
- Types of Scleroderma
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that can involve the:
- blood vessels
- nervous system
- other internal organs
Symptoms vary, but may include skin rash, arthritis, fever, anemia, fatigue, hair loss, mouth ulcers, and kidney problems. Symptoms usually first appear in women of childbearing age, but, can occur in children or older people. About 90% of people affected are women.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve at the wrist which causes tingling and numbness in the fingers. It can begin suddenly or gradually and can be associated with other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis -- or it may be unrelated to other disorders.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Screening Quiz
- Test Your Knowledge - Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- How Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Develops - Step-by-Step
Spondylitis is a result of inflammation which usually starts in tissue outside the joint. Common, early symptoms of spondylitis involve low back pain and stiffness which may continue for months.
The exact cause is still unknown, but, most people with spondylitis have a genetic marker known as HLA-B27. Having this genetic marker does not mean a person will develop spondylitis, but people with the marker are more likely to develop the disease. Ankylosing spondylitis usually affects men between the ages of 16 and 35, but it can also affect women.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis Screening Quiz
- Facts About Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Ankylosing Spondylitis - Often a Difficult or Delayed Diagnosis
Bursitis / Tendinitis
Bursitis is a condition caused by inflammation of the bursa sacs. Bursae are the fluid-filled sacs located in the areas where muscles and tendons glide over the bones. Tendinitis, also spelled tendonitis, is characterized by inflammation of a tendon. Tendons connect muscles to bones.
Infectious arthritis is a form of joint inflammation caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. Diagnosis is made by culturing the organism from the joint.
- Septic arthritis is caused by bacterial invasion.
- Tuberculous arthritis is caused by tuberculosis.
- Fungal arthritis results from infection by a fungus.
- Gonococcal arthritis develops when infected with gonorrhea.
- Viral arthritis is caused by viral infections.
Lyme DiseaseLyme disease is a serious tick-borne disorder. Lyme disease can affect the:
- nervous system
- Lyme Disease Screening Quiz
- Facts About Lyme Disease
- Test Your Knowledge - Lyme Disease
- How to Protect Yourself Against Lyme Disease
Reactive arthritis, also called Reiter's syndrome, involves inflammation in the joints, and sometimes where ligaments and tendons attach to bones.
Sjogren's syndrome is characterized by dysfunction of the moisture-producing glands causing dryness of the mouth and eyes. Other parts of the body may also be affected, resulting in a wide range of symptoms.
Osteoporosis results in loss of bone tissue, leaving bones less dense and prone to fracture. Osteoporosis is a silent disease that can often be prevented.
- Osteoporosis Screening Quiz
- Osteoporosis Risk Factors
- Bone Up on Osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis vs. Osteoarthritis - Similar Names, Different Conditions
- Raynaud's Phenomenon (a disorder causing blood vessels to constrict)
- Polymyalgia Rheumatica (may also have giant cell arteritis)
- Mixed Connective Tissue Diseases (an overlap of several diseases)
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (causes debilitating jaw pain and dysfunction)
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy)
- Behcet's Disease (a chronic inflammatory disorder)
- Avascular Necrosis (also known as osteonecrosis)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (arthritis and osteoporosis are common complications)
- Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (causes calcification of the vertebrae)
- Vasculitis (disorders causing inflammation of blood vessels)
Arthritis: Timely Treatments for An Ageless Disease, FDA Consumer, May-June 2000
Do I Have Arthritis? NIAMS. March 2010.