Arthritis, the inflammation of one or more joints, can result in chronic and debilitating pain.
A number of conditions can cause joint pain, so it's important to consult with your physician to make sure arthritis is the right diagnosis.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which typically comes with aging. Other types include rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the oldest and most common forms of arthritis. Known as the "wear-and-tear" kind of arthritis, OA is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage. Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement of joints. The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other,
causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.
Osteoarthritis is known by many different names, including degenerative joint disease, ostoarthrosis, hypertrophic arthritis and degenerative arthritis. It is most common in older people and is mainly a disease of the spine, hip, hand, knee, and foot, but it can happen in other joints too. There are several stages of osteoarthritis:
- Cartilage loses elasticity and is more easily damaged by injury or use.
- Wear of cartilage causes changes to underlying bone. The bone thickens and cysts may occur under the cartilage. Bony growths, called spurs or osteophytes, develop near the end of the bone at the affected joint.
- Bits of bone or cartilage float loosely in the joint space.
- The joint lining, or the synovium, becomes inflamed due to cartilage breakdown causing cytokines (inflammation proteins) and enzymes that damage cartilage further.
Changes in the cartilage and bones of the joint can lead to pain, stiffness and use limitations.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease, mainly characterized by inflammation of the lining, or synovium, of the joints. It can lead to long-term joint damage, resulting in chronic pain, loss of function and disability.
RA progresses in three stages. The first stage is the swelling of the synovial lining, causing pain, warmth, stiffness, redness and swelling around the joint. Second is the rapid division and growth of cells, or pannus, which causes the synovium to thicken. In the third stage, the inflamed cells release enzymes that may digest bone and cartilage, often causing the involved joint to lose its shape and alignment, more pain and loss of movement.
Because it is a chronic disease, RA continues indefinitely and may not go away. Frequent flares in disease activity can occur. RA is a systemic disease, which means it can affect other organs in the body. Early diagnosis and treatment of RA is critical if you want to continue living a productive lifestyle. Studies have shown that early aggressive treatment of RA can limit joint damage, which in turn limits loss of movement, decreased ability to work, higher medical costs and potential surgery.
Juvenile arthritis (JA) refers to any form of arthritis or an arthritis-related condition that develops in children or teenagers who are less than 18 years of age. According to the Arthritis Foundation, approximately 294,000 children are affected by pediatric arthritis and rheumatologic conditions.