Arthritis is a type of joint disorder that involves the inflammation and deformation of one or more joints in the body. The term 'arthritis' comes from the Greek words 'arthro,' which means joint, and 'itis,' a suffix that implies inflammation. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and other similar and related health issues (lupus, septic arthritis, and so on). The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and gout. All types of arthritis cause pain and discomfort.
The Most Common Symptoms of Arthritis Are:
- Pain when working with your hands or walking
- Inability to work with your hands
- Very bad sleep
- Muscle pains
- Weight loss
- Muscle and joint weakness
Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic type of arthritis and affects the joints of the fingers, toes, knees, hips, lower back and neck. People of all ages can get osteoarthritis, but it is most common in people that are older than 65 years. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the patient’s joints breaks down, causing the bones to rub together and eventually making the joints swell. The risk factors for osteoarthritis are obesity, previous joint injuries, age, muscle weakness, and the genes. Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage of the joints and this causes painful movement and discomfort while walking or working.
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are:
- Limited motion
- Cracking sound when you bend a joint
- Swelling around the joint
- Pain after everyday activities
Osteoarthritis affects the hips, knees, fingers, and feet. Very often, people with arthritis can’t do their ordinary daily tasks because all of them cause pain. The pain can be reduced with medication. People who are diagnosed with osteoarthritis fall (because of pain and dizziness) more often than other arthritis sufferers. To learn if the patient has osteoarthritis, the doctor might consult some medical history reports and conduct a few physical exams including X-rays and other imaging tests.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that affects the joints first, but may cause many health issues later. Rheumatoid arthritis causes an inflammation in the synovium and cartilage that causes pain, discomfort, nerve irritation, and swelling. After the inflammation ends, the joint capsule is still stretched and the person can’t hold the joints properly. While rheumatoid arthritis may cause morning stiffness and joint pain typically in the same joint on both sides of your body, additional symptoms may also develop in other parts of your body including the heart, lungs, eyes, and skin. Sjogren’s syndrome frequently occurs with rheumatoid arthritis--this syndrome is responsible for dryness of the eyes and mouth and may be followed by other symptoms and complications that include sleep difficulties, nodules under the skin, numbness, burning, and tingling in the hands and feet.
The most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Flu-like symptoms, such as generally feeling ill and hot
- Eye inflammation
- Rheumatoid nodules in the elbows, hands, or feet
Rheumatoid arthritis starts very slowly and as time goes by, the symptoms become more uncomfortable. Patients diagnosed with this type of arthritis are prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications, and are advised to go for physical therapies. There are also surgery options for aggressive forms. A doctor cannot use any single test to diagnose whether the patient has RA. To be able to properly identify the condition, he is likely to take a medical history, conduct a physical exam, and order X-rays or other imaging tests. People who have a family history with this disease need to stop smoking, eat less red meat, and drink less coffee.
Another category of arthritis is juvenile arthritis (JA). JA is arthritis affecting children under 16 years of age. It is an umbrella term for several types of arthritis that affect children, the most common type of which is juvenile idiopathic arthritis. This is a group of autoimmune disorders that can impact a child’s joints. The most common symptoms of juvenile arthritis are:
- Muscle and soft tissue may tighten
- Bones may erode
- Changes in growth patterns
- Joint misalignment
- Months of aching joints
Fibromyalgia is considered a central pain syndrome that causes the brain and spinal cord to process pain signals differently. A touch or movement that doesn’t cause pain for others may feel painful to the patient (also called allodynia). At times, something that is only mildly painful to someone without fibromyalgia may hurt the patient a lot (this is called hyperalgesia). Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain in the muscles and bones, fatigue, bad moods, and memory loss. It is characterized by widespread pain which may come and go or be constant.
Besides pain, fibromyalgia is associated with other symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep problems, inability to concentrate, and mood troubles. There is no cure for this condition, but there are many medications that can ease the symptoms. Doctors don't know the exact causes of fibromyalgia, but there are many common triggers among patients: genetics, infections, and physical or emotional post-traumatic stress. Fibromyalgia is more often diagnosed in women who have a family history of this disease. These are the most common symptoms:
- Widespread pain that can last more than three months
- Difficulties with cognitive functions
- Cramps in the lower abdomen
This disease comes with many side effects such frustrations caused by the pain. The patient’s family and friends should therefore be informed about the condition and try to support the sick one.
Other Less Common Types of Arthritis
Other less common types of arthritis include
- Psoriatic arthritis – "This is common in people who have psoriasis.
- Septic arthritis – Patients who have artificial joints are at great risk for this type of arthritis.
- Lupus – This is a collagen vascular disorder.
- Gout – This results from uric acid crystal deposits in the joints.
People need to make an appointment with their doctor if they are experiencing symptoms that look like arthritis may be the cause.