An estimated 45+ million adults in the United States are currently diagnosed with some form of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. Although some types of joint problems typically affects only certain joints, (the hips ,hands , knees, low back and neck), other joint diseases create pain, swelling, and stiffness anywhere bones meet in the body. So what are the joints? And what is joint damage?
The bones of the body help us stand up straight. Anywhere two bones meet is called a joint. Bones connect at the joints. Ligaments, tendons, and muscles surround the bones and joints, and allow the joints to bend and move. Ligaments are tough tissues that connect one bone to another. Tendons are fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones. Muscles are bundles of specialized cells that, when stimulated by nerves, either relax or contract to produce movement.
In each joint of the body, a tissue called cartilage covers the ends of the two bones in a joint and keeps bones from rubbing against each other during motion. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over each other and helps absorb shock of movement. Between the two pieces of cartilage lays a small bag called the synovium that holds synovial fluid, which further lubricates the joint to allow for smooth, painless motion.
What is joint damage?
Joint damage is a result of arthritis or direct physical trauma to a joint . During cases of joint damage or degenerative joint disease, the cartilage becomes worn away. Spurs grow out from the edge of the bone, and synovial fluid increases. In a combined effect, the joint feels stiff and sore.
Types of joint damage
Joint damage and particular types of degenerative joint disease cause pain, swelling and reduced motion in the joints. The most common forms of joint disease include:
Ankylosing spondylitis - This condition affects the spinal joints of young men. The movement of the joints is limited due to aseptic inflammation and people diagnosed with this condition experience permanent deformity of the spinal column (kifosis).
CREST syndrome - This type of systemic sclerosis is characterized by the presence of calcinosis, Raynaud's syndrome, esophageal dysmotility, sclerodactyly and telangiectasia. CREST syndrome is characterized by arthritis of the joints, including the temporomandibular joint.
Fibromylagia - Although fibromyalgia does not target the joints specifically, it is a chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain that is experienced in the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body.
Gout - Gout most often attacks small joints (such as the big toe), and is caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream.
Lupus - Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disorder characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation of and damage to the joints and other connective tissues or organs of the body.
Osteoarthritis - Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects cartilage as the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape or bone spurs may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, which causes more pain and damage.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) - RA is an autoimmune disease which occurs when the body's immune system attacks the cartilage tissue in the joints. RA is both a chronic and progressive disease.
Do doctors know what causes joint damage? And are only older adults at risk of developing problems in the joints? Continue reading to learn more about risk factors and what causes degenerative joint disease here.
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