1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

What Is Arthritis?

More Than 100 Types of Arthritis and Related Conditions

By

Updated May 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

168360315.jpg
Hero Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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

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.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

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.

Juvenile Arthritis

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:

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

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.

Fibromyalgia

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.

Gout

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

Scleroderma is a disease of the body's connective tissue that causes thickening and hardening of the skin. It can also affect the:

  • joints
  • blood vessels
  • internal organs

There are two types of scleroderma: localized and generalized (systemic).

Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that can involve the:

  • skin
  • kidneys
  • blood vessels
  • joints
  • nervous system
  • heart
  • 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.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the spine, can cause the vertebrae to fuse, producing a rigid spine. Other joints, besides the spine, may become involved.

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.

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

Infectious arthritis is a form of joint inflammation caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. Diagnosis is made by culturing the organism from the joint.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a serious tick-borne disorder. Lyme disease can affect the:
  • joints
  • nervous system
  • heart
  • skin
  • eyes

Reactive Arthritis

Reactive arthritis, also called Reiter's syndrome, involves inflammation in the joints, and sometimes where ligaments and tendons attach to bones.

Sjogren's Syndrome

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

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.

Other Conditions

Sources:

Arthritis: Timely Treatments for An Ageless Disease, FDA Consumer, May-June 2000

Do I Have Arthritis? NIAMS. March 2010.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.