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An Overview of Arthritis

Arthritis is a word that means inflammation of the joints. It includes more than 100 different conditions that cause pain in the joints, muscles, ligaments, or cartilage. Some type of arthritis affects one out of three Americans.

Most types of arthritis cannot be cured. Treatment usually involves pain relief and managing the symptoms. However, sometimes medication can keep the disease from progressing. Be sure to consult your doctor if you think you have some type of arthritis.

These are some of the most common types.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease. It occurs when the protective cartilage at the ends of the bones wears down, no longer providing necessary cushioning. This type of arthritis is usually associated with aging, and affects areas that bear weight such as the spine, hips, and knees.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. This means that for some reason, the immune system makes antibodies that attack the joints, causing inflammation there. It is usually symmetric, meaning that the same joints on both sides of the body are affected. Often, it will start in small joints in the hands or feet, and progress into larger joints.

Juvenile arthritis is a rheumatoid arthritis that occurs in children under the age of 16. It has been classified into three types depending on whether fewer than five joints, more than five joints, or the whole body is affected. Many children do make a complete recovery.

Psoriatic arthritis occurs in some people who have a chronic skin condition called psoriasis. This type is usually mild and most commonly affects joints in the fingers and toes. However, it can occur in the spine, causing pain in the lower back or the neck.

Gout is a sudden swelling of a joint with severe pain. It usually affects the big toe. Deposits of uric acid crystals cause this. The onset is rapid and most commonly occurs at night or early in the morning. It can be extremely painful.

Reactive arthritis occurs up to a month after a severe infection of dysentery or venereal disease. It most commonly affects knees, ankles, and feet. The arthritis is not symmetrical, and its symptoms are acute. Most patients do recover from this form of arthritis.