Arthritis is a condition that causes joint pain and inflammation. There are several types of arthritis, although two are the most common: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis often develops in people over 50. It can also occur at earlier age due to an injury or another joint-related condition. Osteoarthritis affects the smooth cartilage (connective tissue) lining of the joint and therefore movement becomes more difficult, feeling pain and stiffness. The cartilage lining of the joint can thin, where the joint becomes more active, in which case there can be possible swelling. Actually, the cartilage erodes, so that bones and joints rub together. Most affected are the joints in the hands, spine, hips, and knees.
Rheumatoid arthritis is when the body's immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. In this condition, the outer covering is firstly affected, spreading to the joint, causing swelling and even change of the joint’s shape. Women are more affected than men.
Other types of arthritis are:
- Ankylosing spondylitis (affecting the bones, muscles and ligaments of the spine)
- Cervical spondylosis (affecting the joints and bones in the neck)
- Fibromyalgia (pains in the body's muscles, ligaments, and tendons)
- Lupus (autoimmune condition that can affect many different organs and tissues)
- Gout (caused by too much uric acid in the body; it usually affects the big toe, but can develop in any joint)
- Psoriatic arthritis (an inflammatory joint condition in people with psoriasis)
- Enteropathic arthritis (associated with inflammatory bowel disease; the peripheral (limb) joints and the spine are affected)
- Reactive arthritis occurs after an infection of the bowel, genital tract or, less frequently, after a throat infection and therefore mostly affetcted are the joints, eyes and urethra
- Secondary arthritis occurs as a result of a joint injury
- Polymyalgia rheumatica is a condition where the immune system causes muscle pain, stiffness, and joint inflammation.
The symptoms of arthritis depend on the type. The common symptoms are:
- joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
- inflammation in and around the joints
- restricted movement of the joints
- warm, red skin over the affected joint
- weakness and muscle wasting
The cause of osteoarthritis is so-called wear-and-tear damage to the joint's cartilage, the slick coating on the ends of bones. Damaged cartilage grinds the bone, which causes pain and restricted movement. The damage occurs slowly or faster, in case of direct injury.
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is the body's immune system which attacks the lining of the joint. This lining, known as the synovial membrane, becomes inflamed and swollen. Over time, it can destroy the cartilage and the bone within the joint.
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Family history
- Previous joint injury
Complications of arthritis arise in case of severe arthritis. People affected will feel difficulty in walking, performing daily routines. Joints may become twisted and deformed, making the condition more complicated.