I was reminded today that I am still unfamiliar with several of the 100+ types of illnesses under the arthritis umbrella. This makes me think that I’m probably not the only one.
If you are new to the world of arthritis, I will attempt to pass on what I have learned. Let’s start with the basics, the three major types of arthritis.
This is the most common joint disorder, and is the type most people think of when they hear the word “arthritis.” It is also called osteoarthroses or degenerative joint disease, and is the most common type of arthritis. OA is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint. It is usually caused by aging and wear and tear on a joint, but can be the result of a traumatic injury. The most common symptoms are pain and stiffness in the joints. The pain is often worse after exercise and when you put weight or pressure on the joint.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA is a chronic disease, mainly characterized by inflammation of the lining, or synovium, of the joints. It can also affect organs. The cause of RA is unknown. It is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Infection, genes, and hormone changes may also be linked to the disease. RA can occur at any age, but is more common in middle age. Patients diagnosed under the age of 18 are considered to have Juvenile Arthritis (see below). Women get RA more often than men. It can lead to long-term joint damage, resulting in chronic pain, loss of function and disability.
Joint symptoms may include morning stiffness and joint pain. Over time, joints may lose their range of motion and may become deformed. Other symptoms include chest pain when taking a breath (pleurisy); dry eyes and mouth (Sjogren syndrome); eye burning, itching or discharge; nodules under the skin; numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands and feet; and sleep difficulties.
Juvenile Arthritis (JA)
This is any form of arthritis or an arthritis-related condition that develops in children or teenagers who are less than 18 years of age. Almost 300,000 children under the age of 18 are affected by pediatric arthritis and rheumatologic conditions in the United States alone. Like RA, it is a malfunction of the immune system. Symptoms of JA may begin with a swollen joint, limping, a spiking fever, or a new rash. It is particularly difficult to diagnose in young children because of their verbal limitations and possibly inexperience of the parents. JA can also cause eye problems called uveitis, iridocyclitis, or iritis. Damage to the vision can occur before or after symptoms are present.