Today is World Arthritis Day, which kicks off Bone and Joint Health Week. Many people associate the word “arthritis” with osteoarthritis, but there are actually several different kinds — it’s a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders with more than 100 different conditions that affect the joints, bones, muscles, cartilage, and connective tissues. In honor of World Arthritis Day, here’s a basic primer on the different types of arthritis.
One of the best known and most common types of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) happens when cartilage — the cushion on the end of bones that allows joints to move smoothly and easily — breaks down, causing bones to painfully rub against each other. This can result in stiffness, pain, and loss of movement in the joint. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include age, obesity, injury or overuse, genetics, and having weak muscles.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune disease. This means that for some unknown reason, the immune system incorrectly identifies the body’s own tissue as an invader and attacks it the way it would attack bacteria or a virus. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. This attacking of the synovium causes fluid buildup in the joints, resulting in pain and inflammation that can occur throughout the body.
Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a blanket term used to refer to many different autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children 16 and younger. Arthritis literally means joint inflammation (arth = joint; itis = inflammation) but JA can also affect the eyes, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. The most common type is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), which is an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Take note of symptoms like limping, swollen joints, and reduced physical activity. If your child is diagnosed with JIA, make sure that he or she gets regular eye exams because the condition can cause eye damage.
Other Types of Arthritis
Because arthritis is a general term that refers to joint inflammation, many different specific types exist. Diseases and conditions like Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, Psoriatic Arthritis, Gout, and Ankylosing Spondylitis all fall under the umbrella of arthritis because they can all affect the joints and cause pain and swelling.
While some types of arthritis don’t have a definitive cure, there are still many things that can be done to improve your quality of life. Don’t feel like you have to suffer in silence. If you’re experiencing pain or swelling in your joints, contact your doctor today.
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