Arthritis literally means joint inflammation. Arthritis is not a single disease. Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.

Any part of your body can become inflamed or painful from arthritis. Some rheumatic conditions can result in debilitating, even life-threatening complications or may affect other parts of the body including the muscles, bones, and internal organs.

The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis can affect anyone at any age, including children. The incidence of arthritis increases with age, but nearly three out of every five sufferers are under age 65.

If left undiagnosed and untreated, many types of arthritis can cause irreversible damage to the joints, bones, organs, and skin.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, results from wear and tear. The pressure of gravity causes physical damage to the joints and surrounding tissues, leading to:

*               pain

*               tenderness

*               swelling

*               decreased function

Initially, osteoarthritis is non-inflammatory and its onset is subtle and gradual, usually involving one or only a few joints. The joints most often affected are the:

*               knees

*               hips

*               hands

*               spine

Risks of osteoarthritis increase with age. Other risk factors include joint trauma, obesity, and repetitive joint use.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium (cell lining inside the joint). Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, potentially disabling disease which causes:

*               joint pain

*               stiffness

*               swelling

*               loss of joint function

While the cause remains elusive, doctors suspect that genetic factors are important. Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose early because it can begin gradually with subtle symptoms.

Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile arthritis is a general term for all types of arthritis that occur in children. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis in children. There are three major types:

*               polyarticular (affecting many joints)

*               pauciarticular (pertaining to only a few joints)

*               systemic (affecting the entire body)

Signs and symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis vary from child to child. No single test can conclusively establish a diagnosis. Juvenile arthritis must be present consistently for six or more consecutive weeks before a correct diagnosis can be made.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis. About 5 percent of people with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease, also develop psoriatic arthritis. In psoriatic arthritis, there is inflammation of the joints and sometimes the spine.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a painful condition characterized by:

*               muscle pain

*               chronic fatigue

*               poor sleep

The name fibromyalgia means pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Fibromyalgia is a type of soft tissue or muscular rheumatism and does not cause joint deformities.

Gout

Gout is a painful type of arthritis that causes sudden, severe attacks of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling in the joints, especially the big toe. The pain and swelling associated with gout are caused by uric acid crystals that precipitate out of the blood and are deposited in the joint.

*               Guide to Gout

*               Gout Screening Quiz

*               Fast Facts About Gout

*               Test Your Knowledge: Gout

*               What Are Gout Risk Factors?

Pseudogout / CPPD

Pseudogout, which is also known as Calcium Pyrophosphate Dihydrate Deposition Disease (CPPD), is caused by deposits of calcium phosphate crystals (not uric acid) in the joints. CPPD is often mistaken as gouty arthritis. Since CPPD is a different disease than gout, treatment is not the same as gout.

*               What is CPPD?

*               Is it Gout or Pseudogout?

*               Guide to Pseudogout

Scleroderma

Scleroderma is a disease of the body’s connective tissue that causes thickening and hardening of the skin. It can also affect the:

*               joints

*               blood vessels

*               internal organs

There are two types of scleroderma: localized and generalized.

*               Guide to Scleroderma

*               Scleroderma Screening Quiz

*               Fast Facts About Scleroderma

*               Test Your Knowledge: Scleroderma

*               Scleroderma: Not a Single Disease

Lupus / Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that can involve the:

*               skin

*               kidneys

*               blood vessels

*               joints

*               nervous system

*               heart

*               other internal organs

Symptoms vary, but may include a skin rash, arthritis, fever, anemia, fatigue, hair loss, mouth ulcers, and kidney problems. Symptoms usually first appear in women of childbearing age, but, can occur in children or older people. About 90 percent of those affected are women