3 Major Types of Arthritis: What You Need to Know

A joint is where your bones meet and connect to facilitate coordinated body movement. Some joints even support your weight and act as shock absorbers when you run and walk. One of the diseases that affects your joints is arthritis, which causes pain and inflammation of the joints and their adjacent soft tissues.

People with arthritis experience certain periods when symptoms seem to get worse, also known as flares, and periods when symptoms seem to get better, also known as remission.

How Many are Affected?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 54.4 million adults in the United States were diagnosed with arthritis from 2013-2015. The prevalence of the disease increases with age. Statistics show that the number of cases is higher in women (at 23.5%) compared to men (18.1%).

Research shows that people who are suffering from other lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, are also at risk of developing arthritis because of their limited physical activity.

What are the major types of arthritis?

There are many types of arthritis. All of them affect the joints, and present with pain and inflammation, but with different causes. The common types include:

1. Osteoarthritis (OA)

Of all the types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common. It affects more than 30 million people in the United States alone. Osteoarthritis is also known as the degenerative joint disease. It typically develops as a result of repeated “wear and tear” or overuse injury of the joints. This happens when performing certain activities like playing sports and lifting heavy weights that put too much tension and stress on the joints. Putting too much weight on your joints, like in the case of obese and overweight people, can also lead to osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is caused by a damaged joint cartilage, which serves as a cushion between two bones. This will make the bones rub together painfully. Other risk factors include age, sex (women, especially those who are over 50 years old), genetics, and obesity.

The signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis are:

  • Pain and stiffness in the joints (often involves the knees, neck, hips, lower back, and the joints in the hands)

  • Swelling and inflammation

  • Limited range of motion of the affected joints

2. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common autoimmune disease that results from combined genetic and environmental factors. This means that your normal cells are being attacked by your own immune system. This leads to inflammation and pain in different parts of the body, particularly the joints.

The specific cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase your likelihood of having the disease. These include age, sex (women), genetics, cigarette smoking, and obesity.

The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Pain and stiffness in more than one the joint

  • Swelling and tenderness in more than one joint

  • Bilateral symptoms (symptoms present on both sides of the body)

  • Body weakness and fatigue

  • Weight loss

  • Fever

3. Gouty arthritis (GA)

Unlike the first two types of arthritis, gout only affects one joint at a time (typically the big toe) and is more common in men. Repeated attacks of gout can result in a worse form of arthritis known as gouty arthritis.

Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood, a condition known as hyperuricemia. High uric acid levels can lead to the formation of uric acid crystals in your body tissues, including your joints. These crystals, known as monosodium urate, are sharp and small. When they accumulate in and around your joints, they can cause severe pain and inflammation.

The signs and symptoms of gout include:

  • Intense pain in the affected joint

  • Swelling and tenderness

  • Redness

  • Heat

  • Warm when touched

How to Deal With Arthritis?

Aside from prescribed medications and regular medical check-ups, lifestyle modifications are also important in dealing with arthritis.

  • Avoid foods that are high in purine to prevent gout flares such as red meat, seafood, and organ meat.

  • Engage in moderate physical activity. Since arthritis can limit mobility, it can put you at risk of developing other lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

  • Arthritis can limit your mobility so that doing simple tasks become difficult. Using the right adaptive device can assist you in doing daily activities such as grooming and dressing. These devices include long shoe horns to help put your shoes on easier, elastic shoelaces to convert any troublesome lace-up shoes into slip-ons, or sock aids to make putting on socks less challenging.

  • Maintain a normal weight. This can reduce the pressure on the weight-bearing joints and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

  • Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking worsens arthritis and can lead to other chronic problems. When smoking, less oxygen is being delivered to the lungs. This limits your physical activity, which is important in managing rheumatoid arthritis.