Did you know that 1 in 5 adults living in the United States, reports having doctor-diagnosed arthritis? Many people think arthritis is a single disease, but it’s not. Arthritis literally means “joint inflammation.” While there are over 100 types of arthritis, about a dozen are considered common. The likeness among these 100-plus conditions is that they all affect the musculoskeletal system. Specifically, the joints – where two or more bones meet, this can cause varied levels of pain, swelling, joint stiffness and sometimes a constant ache around the joint(s).
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While they are both classified as arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are very different and must be distinguished.
Osteoarthritis, also known as progressive joint disease, results from wear and tear on the joint. Cartilage damage develops which can lead to decreased joint function. The first signs of osteoarthritis are joint pain, joint tenderness, joint swelling and decreased range of motion.
Usually, osteoarthritis onset is subtle and gradual, involving one or only a few joints. The joints most often affected are the knees, hips, hands and spine.
The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age. Other risk factors include: joint injury, obesity, and repetitive use of the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which occurs when the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium (cell lining inside the joint). Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis, chronic and potentially disabling. The first signs of the disease are joint pain, joint stiffness, joint swelling and loss of joint function.
While the cause remains elusive, doctors suspect that genetic factors play some role in predisposition to the disease. But there is more than genetic predisposition. It is thought that there are also environmental triggers for rheumatoid arthritis.
If arthritis (in general) is left undiagnosed and untreated, many types of arthritis can cause irreversible damage to the joints, bones, organs, and skin. It is essential to be diagnosed early in the course of the disease and treated appropriately.
If you have any questions or even think that you may have arthritis, make an appointment with one of our top orthopedic doctors at Houston Athletic Orthopedics & Knee Center.