Arthritis affects hundreds of millions of people across the globe. The Arthritis Foundation® notes that more than 50 million adults in the United States have some type of arthritis, while the European League Against Rheumatism estimates that rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis affect more than 120 million people in the European Union. In Canada, the Canadian Community Health Survey found that 16 percent of Canadians age 15 and older were affected by arthritis.
The Arthritis Foundation notes that arthritis is not a single disease. In fact, the word “arthritis” is something of an umbrella term and an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. While these conditions may produce some common symptoms, such as swelling, pain and stiffness, learning to distinguish between some common types of arthritis can help men and women manage their conditions more effectively.
Osteoarthritis, which is sometimes referred to as “degenerative joint disease” or “OA,” is the most common chronic condition of the joints. The symptoms of OA vary depending on the joints that are affected, but pain and stiffness, especially first thing in the morning or after resting, are common. OA can affect the hips, knees, fingers, or feet, and those with OA may feel limited range of motion in their affected areas. Some with OA may hear clicking or cracking sounds when the affected joints bend, and pain associated with OA may be more intense after activity or toward the end of the day.
Inflammatory arthritis occurs when the immune system, which can employ inflammation to fight infection and prevent disease, mistakenly attacks the joints with uncontrolled inflammation. Such a mistake can contribute to joint erosion and even organ damage. Psoriatic arthritis, which the Arthritis Foundation notes affects roughly 30 percent of people with psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis are two examples of inflammatory arthritis. Genetics and environmental factors, such as smoking, may trigger instances of inflammatory arthritis.
Bacterium, a virus or a fungus that enters the joint may trigger inflammation and lead to infection arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation notes that the most common bacteria to cause infection arthritis is staphylococcous aureus, or staph. The majority of infectious arthritis cases occur after an infection somewhere else in the body travels through the bloodstream to the joint, though some infections may enter the joint directly through a puncture wound near the joint or during surgery near the joint. Intense swelling and pain, typically in a single joint, are the most common symptoms of infectious arthritis, which is most likely to affect the knee, though it can affect the hips, ankles and wrists. Some people with infection arthritis may also experience fever and chills.
The body produces uric acid to break down purines, a substance found in many foods and in human cells. But some people produce more uric acid than they need, which they then struggle to get rid of quickly. As a result, uric acid can build up. The Arthritis Foundation notes that this buildup can lead to the formation of needle-like crystals in the joints that cause sudden spikes of extreme pain.
Arthritis can affect people of any age, race or gender. More information about the various types of arthritis is available at www.arthritis.org.