Arthritis is a very broad term that actually encompasses over 100 musculoskeletal disorders. More than 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from some sort of arthritis. Symptoms of arthritis vary, depending on the individual type.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is perhaps the most common type of arthritis. At its core, it is a degenerative joint disease that’s sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. It typically occurs with aging and is associated with worn down cartilage. When this happens, it affects the cushion in between bones. In severe cases, joint motion can be impacted, as well.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the lining of the joints. It is a painful disorder that sparks the immune system to attack joints. This, in turn, causes joint stiffness, pain, swelling and fatigue. Swollen, crooked fingers are a hallmark of RA. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that roughly 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from it.
Juvenile arthritis refers to joint swelling in children under the age of 18. According to the Arthritis Foundation, about 294,000 children in the United States have some type of the disease. In the most extreme cases, it can actually impact bone and joint growth, which can stunt a child’s growth.
Another type of arthritis is gout. Gout is an especially painful type of arthritis caused by the body’s inability to process uric acid. This buildup of acid triggers severe attacks of pain, redness and swelling in the joints, particularly in the big toe, knee or ankle. The condition can also increase the risk of developing kidney stones. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, there are certain risk factors associated with gout. This includes being overweight, excessive alcohol use, and diets rich in purines (a compound found in anchovies, asparagus, sardines, mackerel, scallops and herring). People with preexisting health issues like kidney problems, high blood pressure and underactive thyroid may be at higher risk, as well. According to the American College of Rheumatology, gout is strongly associated with obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes. Diuretics and aspirin may also raise the risk of developing gout. People with gout often experience intense pain that usually flares up at night. The affected area might appear warm, red, tender or swollen. In most cases, these attacks may last several days or occur infrequently. Chronic gout is more persistent and can cause serious joint damage. If severe, a person can develop what’s known as tophi (lumps beneath the skin). Gout typically affects men more than women, however post-menopausal women are at an increased risk.
Treatment options also are determined by the type and severity of the arthritis. At this point, there is no cure. However, treatment options can help alleviate symptoms and help joints function better. Some common approaches include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, topical creams to relieve pain, immunosuppressants, physical therapy and surgery.
When it comes to Gout, the pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids are all common medical approaches to treat the disorder. Drugs to remove excess uric acid are also an option for some. People with long-term gout usually require these drugs. Dietary modifications can also help keep symptoms under control. The condition is diagnosed when a health care provider finds what’s known as characteristic crystals in the fluid of joints, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Because of potential coexisting medical conditions, treatment plans are typically tailored to the individual.