Common Forms Of Arthritis

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Common Forms Of Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Common Forms Of Arthritis
Common Forms Of Arthritis
Although there are more than 100 forms of arthritic conditions, the most common disorders include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and lupus.
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Common Forms Of Arthritis

Normal Joint

Arthritis affects, in one form or another, 70 million Americans. Although there are more than 100 forms of arthritic conditions, four of the most common disorders include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and gout. Arthritis may affect people of all ages, including children; the juvenile forms of arthritis are unique in how they affect the body and in how they must be treated.

Among the many forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease (often described as a "wear and tear process"), is the most common. Osteoarthritis centers primarily on the Joint with Osteoarthritisweight-bearing joints — the hip or knee, but it often affects the hand and spine as well. It occurs when the cartilage that normally covers and cushions the ends of bones wears down. As bone rubs against bone, the joint loses shape and alignment, the ends of the bones thicken and form bony growths called spurs, and bits of cartilage or bone may float within the joint space. The result is stiff, achy and sometimes swollen joints that are worse after sitting still or with use. It is estimated that almost 18 million Americans suffer from some type of degenerative joint disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately 2 million Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system reacts against itself causing inflammation of the lining of the joints (synovial membrane).
joint with Rheumatoid Arthritis
As the thickened and inflamed membrane spreads to the bone and cartilage, it causes swelling. In addition, enzymes are released that over time may damage bone, cartilage and ligament. The space between the joints diminishes, and the joints themselves lose shape and alignment. This chronic inflammation restricts movement and causes considerable pain, stiffness, warmth, redness and swelling at the joints.
Among the most disabling forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can result in deformed and loose joints, loss of mobility and diminished strength. Unlike other arthritic conditions that are confined to joints, rheumatoid arthritis may affect more than one joint at a time and may cause inflammation in such organs as eyes, lungs and heart. It can also produce small painless lumps under the skin, called rheumatoid nodules.
The course of the disease varies; for many it comes and goes. Some people experience symptoms continuously for a number of years. For others, the symptoms go into remission for years. Even in remission, though, there may be limited joint function as well as joint deformities.

Gout occurs when there is excess uric acid, one of the body's waste products, causing crystals to accumulate around the small joints. Although gout most often affects the big (or first) toe, other joints, including the ankle, foot, knee, hand and wrist, are frequently subject to gout pain and swelling.
Often episodic in nature, an attack of gout typically builds over a few hours. A joint that seems perfectly normal suddenly becomes explosively painful, red and swollen. The discomfort may last for days, but within a week or two, the joint will return to normal. If left untreated, though, repeated attacks of gout or deposits of uric acid crystals (called tophi) can result in permanent damage and disfigurement to the joint. In most cases, however, these severe forms of gout are preventable with medication. In addition, kidney stones can develop as a result as uric acid deposits. Gout affects nearly 6 million Americans of all ages, but particularly men older than 40.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Or Lupus
Lupus is a rare, chronic connective tissue disorder that typically affects women between the ages of 15 and 35. The most common of several conditions known collectively as connective tissue or autoimmune diseases, lupus affects the lining (synovial membrane) of the joints, causing inflammation, pain and, over time, damage to the joints and connective tissue.
Symptoms of lupus include achy, swollen joints, but lupus may also affect other parts of the body. Other common problems include fever, fatigue, inflammation of the lining of the lungs and heart, anemia, skin rashes such as a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, sun or light sensitivity, hair loss, Raynaud's phenomenon (fingers turning white and/or blue in the cold), seizures, and mouth or nose ulcers, kidney disease or neurologic problems. Typically symptoms flare up and then subside.
Unless controlled with medications or other treatments, severe forms of lupus may affect the entire body and cause such complications as kidney failure, stroke or joint damage. For many people, lupus is a mild disease affecting only a few organs. For others, it leads to serious, even life-threatening problems.




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Last updated April 03, 2009

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