What is Arthritis? | Arthritis | Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. It can affect one joint or multiple joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatment methods. Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

5 Common Types of Arthritis

Did you know that there are more than 100 types of arthritis?

Learn about some of the most common forms, including what they are, what happens, and their symptoms.

What is Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis (OA)

More people have this condition than any other form of arthritis. It’s the “wear and tear” that happens when your joints are overused. It usually happens with age, but it can also come from joint injuries or obesity, which puts extra stress on your joints.

Joints that bear weight — like your knees, hips, feet, and spine — are the most common places it affects. It often comes on gradually over months or years. It makes the affected joint hurt. But you don’t feel sick or have the fatigue that comes with some other types of arthritis.

What happens:

You lose your body’s shock absorber. Cartilage, the slippery material that covers the ends of bones, gradually breaks down.

One example is what can happen to your knees when you’re overweight. The extra pounds put more pressure on the cartilage as it gets squeezed between the bones. It gets damaged and wears away, so there isn’t as much left to cushion the joint.

The damaged cartilage makes movement painful. You may hear a grating sound when the roughened cartilage on the surface of the bones rubs together. You may get painful spurs or bumps on the end of the bones, especially on fingers and feet. The joint lining can get inflamed, but it’s not common with osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of Arthritis depend on which joints or joints are affected. You may have:

  • Deep, aching pain
  •           Trouble dressing, combing your hair, gripping things, bending over, squatting, or climbing stairs, depending on which joints are involved
  •           Morning stiffness that typically lasts less than 30 minutes
  •           Pain when walking
  •          Stiffness after resting
  • Your joint may be:
  •           Warm to the touch
  •           Swollen and harder to move
  •          Unable to move through a full range of motion


Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? 

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. That means the immune system attacks parts of the body, especially the joints. That leads to inflammation, which can cause severe joint damage if you don’t treat it. About 1 out of every 5 people who have rheumatoid arthritis get lumps on their skin called rheumatoid nodules. These often form over joint areas that receive pressure, such as over knuckles, elbows, or heels.

The symptoms of arthritis usually develop over time, but they may also appear suddenly. Arthritis is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 65, but it can also develop in children, teens, and younger adults. Arthritis is more common in women than men and in people who are overweight.

What happens: Doctors don’t know exactly what causes RA. Some experts believe the immune system becomes “confused” after an infection with a bacteria or virus and starts to attack your joints. This battle can spread to other areas of the body.

Scientists think two of the body’s chemicals that are related to inflammation, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin-1, trigger other parts of the immune system in rheumatoid arthritis. Medicines that block TNF, interleukin-1, and interleukin-6 can improve the symptoms and prevent joint damage.

Symptoms can come on gradually or start suddenly. They’re often more severe than with osteoarthritis.

Most Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

·        Pain, Stiffness, and swelling in your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, feet, jaw, and neck. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints.

·        More than one swollen joint. Usually, it’s small joints in your wrists, hands, or feet.


·        Asymmetrical pattern. When the knuckles on your left hand are inflamed, the knuckles on your right hand probably will be as well. After some time, you may notice more of your joints feel warm or become painful or swollen.

·        Morning stiffness that can last for hours or even most of the day. You may also feel fatigued and notice that your appetite is down and you’ve lost weight.

Psoriatic Arthritis

What is Psoriatic Arthritis? 

People with this condition have inflammation of the skin (psoriasis) and joints (arthritis).

Psoriasis causes patchy, raised, red, and white areas of inflamed skin with scales. It usually affects the tips of the elbows and knees, the scalp, the navel, and skin around the genital areas or anus.

Only about 10% to 30% of people with psoriasis will also get psoriatic arthritis.


What happens: This type of arthritis usually starts between ages 30 and 50, but it can start as early as childhood. It’s equally common among men and women. The skin disease (psoriasis) usually shows up first.

Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis: 

Psoriatic arthritis can swell the fingers and toes. People who have it often have fingernails that are pitted or discolored, too.

In some people, only one joint or a few joints are affected. For example, you could have it in only one knee. Sometimes, it affects the spine or just the fingers and toes.


What is Gout? 

A buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint. Most of the time, it’s your big toe or another part of your foot.

What happens: 

Often you wake up with a sudden, sharp pain in your big toe after a night of drinking. But drugs, stress, or another illness can also trigger a gout attack.

The attack will last between 3 and 10 days, even if you don’t treat it. It may be months or years before you have another one, but over time, attacks will grow more frequently. And they may last longer, too. If gout goes untreated for too long, it can affect your joints and kidneys.


Gout results from one of three things:

1. Your body is making more uric acid.

·        2. Your kidneys can’t process the uric acid your body makes.

·        3. You’re eating too many foods that raise uric acid levels.

Symptoms of Gout – They almost always come on quickly. You’ll notice:

·        1. Intense joint pain: It’ll probably be in your big toe, but it could also be in your ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, or fingers.

·        2. Discomfort: Even after the sharp pain goes away, your joint will still hurt.

·        3. Inflammation and redness: The joint will be red, swollen, and tender.

·        4. Hard to move: Your joint will be stiff.


What is Lupus? 

Lupus (also called SLE or systemic lupus erythematosus) is an autoimmune disease. It can affect your joints and many organs in your body.

What happens: 

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes lupus, but something makes your immune system go awry. Instead of attacking viruses and other invaders, it starts to cause inflammation and pain throughout your body, from your joints to your organs, to your brain.

Women of childbearing age are more likely to get lupus than men. It affects African-American women more often than white women. It usually appears between ages 15 and 44.


Symptoms of Lupus:

  • ·        Painful, swollen joints
  • ·        Fatigue
  • ·        Headaches
  • ·        Swelling in the feet, legs, hands, or around the eyes
  • ·        Rashes, including a “butterfly” rash across the cheeks
  • ·        Mouth sores
  • ·        Sun sensitivity
  • ·        Hair loss
  • ·        Blue or white fingers or toes when exposed to cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • ·        Blood disorders, like anemia and low levels of white blood cells or platelets
  • ·        Chest pain from inflammation of the lining of the heart or lungs

What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis. Your range of motion may also decrease, and you may experience redness of the skin around the joint. Many people with arthritis notice their symptoms are worse in the morning.

In the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), you may feel tired or experience a loss of appetite due to the inflammation the immune system’s activity causes. You may also become anemic — meaning your red blood cell count decreases — or have a slight fever. Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis – RA can cause joint deformity if left untreated.

What causes Arthritis?

Cartilage is a firm but flexible connective tissue in your joints. It protects the joints by absorbing the pressure and shock created when you move and put stress on them. A reduction in the normal amount of this cartilage tissue causes some forms of arthritis.

Normal wear and tear cause Osteoarthritis – OA, one of the most common forms of arthritis. An infection or injury to the joints can exacerbate this natural breakdown of cartilage tissue. Your risk of developing Osteoarthritis – OA may be higher if you have a family history of the disease.


Another common form of arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the tissues of the body. These attacks affect the synovium, a soft tissue in your joints that produces a fluid that nourishes the cartilage and lubricates the joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a disease of the synovium that will invade and destroy a joint. It can eventually lead to the destruction of both bone and cartilage inside the joint.

The exact cause of the immune system’s attacks is unknown. But scientists have discovered genetic markers that increase your risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) fivefold.

How is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Seeing your primary care physician is a good first step if you’re unsure who to see for an arthritis diagnosis. They will perform a physical exam to check for fluid around the joints, warm or red joints, and a limited range of motion in the joints. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist if needed.

If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, you may choose to schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist first. This may lead to a faster diagnosis and treatment.


Extracting and analyzing inflammation levels in your blood and joint fluids can help your doctor determine what kind of arthritis you have. Blood tests that check for specific types of antibodies like anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide), Rheumatoid Factor – RF (rheumatoid factor), and ANA (antinuclear antibody) are also common diagnostic tests.

Doctors commonly use imaging scans such as X-ray, MRI, and CT scans to produce an image of your bones and cartilage. This is so they can rule out other causes of your symptoms, such as bone spurs.


Surgery to replace your joint with an artificial one may be an option. This form of surgery is most commonly performed to replace hips and knees.

If your arthritis is most severe in your fingers or wrists, your doctor may perform a joint fusion. In this procedure, the ends of your bones are locked together until they heal and become one.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy involving exercises that help strengthen the muscles around the affected joint is a core component of arthritis treatment.

What lifestyle changes can help people with arthritis?

Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight reduce the risk of developing Osteoarthritis – OA and can reduce symptoms if you already have it.

Eating a healthy diet is important for weight loss. Choosing a diet with lots of antioxidants, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, can help reduce inflammation. Other inflammation-reducing foods include fish and nuts.

Foods to minimize or avoid if you have arthritis include fried foods, processed foods, dairy products, and high intakes of meat.

Some research also suggests that gluten antibodies may be present in people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). A gluten-free diet may improve symptoms and disease progression. A 2015 study also recommends a gluten-free diet for all people who receive a diagnosis of undifferentiated connective tissue disease.


Regular exercise will keep your joints flexible. Swimming is often a good form of exercise for people with arthritis because it doesn’t put pressure on your joints the way running and walking do. Staying active is important, but you should also be sure to rest when you need to and avoid overexerting yourself.

At-home exercises you can try include:

·        the head tilt, neck rotation, and other exercises to relieve pain in your neck

·        finger bends and thumb bend to ease pain in your hands

·        leg raises, hamstring stretches, and other easy exercises for knee arthritis

What is the long-term outlook for people with arthritis?

While there’s no cure for arthritis, the right treatment can greatly reduce your symptoms.


In addition to the treatments your doctor recommends, you can make a number of lifestyle changes that may help you manage your arthritis.

Know more about Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Know more about Osteoarthritis (OA)

Source: Arthritis Foundation

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