Arthritis Center

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults.  In fact, Americans reported over 46 million cases of arthritis or other rheumatic conditions in recent years. 

What is arthritis?
Arthritis literally means "joint inflammation". Most kinds of arthritis cause pain and swelling in the joints.  Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Over time, a swollen joint can become severely damaged.   Although joint inflammation describes a symptom or sign rather than a specific diagnosis, the term "arthritis" is often used to refer to any disorder that affects the joints. These disorders fall within the broader category of rheumatic diseases. 

Types of arthritis
The most common types of arthritis include:

Osteoarthritis (OA) - Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. OA is characterized by worn cartilage, or the tissue that pads bones in a joint. The most sever expression of osteoarthritis is bones that rub against each other, which cause immense pain. Most people experience OA in the hands, neck, lower back, or the large weight-bearing joints of your body, such as the knees and hips.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) - Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease and is the second most common form of arthritis. During RA, the body attacks the lining of a joint and leads to inflammation. RA inflammation causes pain, swelling, and stiffness that lasts for hours. People of any age can develop RA, but the condition is more common in women.  RA can attack almost any joint in the body, including the joints in the fingers, wrists, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, feet, and neck.  RA not only destroys joints but can also affect organs such as the heart, muscles, blood vessels, nervous system, and eyes.

Gout - Gout is one of the most painful forms of arthritis. Gout is caused when crystals of uric acid form in the connective tissue and/or joint spaces. These deposits lead to swelling, redness, heat, pain, and stiffness in the joint. Gout is most often a problem in the big toe, but it can affect other joints, including your ankle, elbow, knee, wrist, hand, or other toes. Swelling may cause the skin to pull tightly around the joint and make the area red or purple and very tender.

Other common forms of arthritis

  • Ankylosing spondylitis - affects the spine
    Psoriatic arthritis - affects people with the skin condition psoriasis
    Reactive arthritis - occurs as a reaction to another disease in the body
    TMJ arthritis - affects the temporomandibular joint where the jaw joins the skull

Most types of arthritis are chronic.  "Arthritis" is not just a word doctors use when they talk about painful, stiff joints. In fact, there are many kinds of arthritis, each with different symptoms and treatments. To learn more about arthritis symptoms, continue reading about symptoms of arthritis now.

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