Arthritis is not one single disease but an umbrella term used to reference joint pain or joint disease and there are over 100 forms of arthritis and related conditions.

People with arthritis can be of any age from any background, and in the United States, more than 50 million people have some form of arthritis.

Arthritis can cause permanent joint damage, and although some changes are visible, like knobby finger joints, most often the effects of arthritis can only be seen on X-rays. Sometimes arthritis affects not only the joints but also parts of the body, like the eyes, heart, kidneys, and lungs.

Common Types of Arthritis

1. Degenerative Arthritis

The most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. When cartilage, the tissue that covers the ends of bones, wears away, bones rub against one another causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Over time, joint pain may become chronic. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include being overweight, family history, age, and previous joint injury.

Being physically active, using hot and cold therapies, and using over-the-counter pain relievers are all ways people use to deal with moderate osteoarthritis symptoms.

If these do not help in reducing pain, physical therapy or joint replacement surgery may be required. Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight can prevent the onset of osteoarthritis.

2. Inflammatory Arthritis

Healthy immune systems create internal inflammation to prevent disease and kill infections.

However, with inflammatory types of arthritis, the body’s immune system is flawed and mistakenly attacks joints, causing uncontrolled inflammation. Your eyes, internal organs, and other body parts can also be damaged by such inflammation.

Examples of inflammatory arthritis include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Gout

With types of arthritis that are autoimmune diseases, aggressive treatment and early diagnosis are essential.

Permanent joint damage can be prevented by slowing the advance of the disease. Medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are often used to help put the disease into remission.

3. Infectious Arthritis

There are also types of arthritis that are caused when a virus, bacterium, or fungus enters joints.

Some examples of organisms that can cause infectious arthritis are chlamydia and gonorrhea (STDs), salmonella and shigella (food poisoning), and Hepatitis C, which is transmitted through your blood and often through sharing needles.

If caught early enough, antibiotics may be able to stop the infection.

4. Metabolic Arthritis

Metabolic arthritis is commonly referred to as gout. Uric acid is formed within the body to break down purines, but some people produce too much uric acid or can’t get rid of it efficiently.

Gout happens when uric acid builds up and crystallizes in the joint, causing stabbing pain in the feet or joints.

Symptoms of Arthritis

The most common symptoms of arthritis are swelling, joint pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.

Arthritic symptoms can be intermittent or constant and can be mildly painful or debilitating. Day-to-day activities can become extremely difficult, making it hard to walk up stairs or even button your shirt.

Symptoms include:

  • Increased joint pain and joint stiffness, especially when they are being used
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Joints may feel like they are about to give out
  • Joints might look like they have small lumps or nodes on them
  • Creaking sound when moving the joint
  • Swollen or inflamed joints
  • Intense fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Decreased appetite
  • Problems sleeping

Diagnosis of Arthritis

Over time, any type of arthritis can cause wear and tear to cartilage and tendons, which can also lead to disability.

Primary care physicians will be the first medical professional you will want to talk to if you believe you have arthritis. They will conduct a physical exam and have blood work ordered to determine the type of arthritis.

If they can not pin down the diagnosis, a rheumatologist may be the next medical specialist you wish to visit.

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