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Major Types of Arthritis

written by: BStone • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/21/2010

From osteoarthritis to gout, what are the major types of arthritis? Learn the causes, signs, and treatment methods for the different forms of joint disease.

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    Arthritis

    arthritis An inflammation of one or more joints is known as arthritis. There are actually hundreds of diseases and conditions which can cause the characteristic pain, stiffness, and decreased joint mobility. Some are chronic, while others have specific causes and specific treatments. Some joint conditions are much more serious than others. What are the major types of arthritis that affect people today?

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    Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects six million Americans. Girls and women are usually affected by this disease. What triggers this reaction is unknown, but the immune system decides to identify synovial membrane as foreign. Rogue immune cells attack this membrane, which is found around the joints. Cartilage and joint tissue become damaged and scar tissue forms along bone surfaces. The major symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are pain, stiffness, and swelling. Other characteristics of the disease include anemia, weight loss, fatigue, and fever.

    How can rheumatoid arthritis be treated? There is no cure, although working with your doctor you can take medications for the pain and inflammation and choose to improve your well-being with a healthy diet and lifestyle. There are many methods, from shiatsu massage to nutrition that can help relieve symptoms.

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    Osteoarthritis

    As with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis affects women more than men, although usually only older women. There are approximately 20 million sufferers of this disease. Why so common? This type of arthritis is caused by use of the joints, by wear and tear. It is also known as degenerative joint disease as it is a result of age.

    The first signs of osteoarthritis include morning stiffness of the joints, bone cracking, or a noticeable pain when the weather is cold and damp. In most cases the joints that bear weight are the first to be affected, such as the hips or knees.

    How is osteoarthritis treated? Taking medications to suppress symptoms is the most common form of treatment, although excessive drug use can inhibit the body's ability to maintain normal collagen structure, thus exacerbating the disease. A healthy diet, a healthy body weight (excess weight can be a contributing factor), moderate exercise and sunlight all help. Also, glucosamine sulfate, which stimulates the production of collagen, has been shown to benefit sufferers of osteoarthritis. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what you can do for your health.

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    Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriatic arthritis is very similar to rheumatoid arthritis as there is joint inflammation (often inflammation of the spine is characteristic of this type of arthritis) with no apparent cause. Approximately five percent of psoriasis sufferers also have this form of arthritis, leaving a person with two serious chronic conditions. In some cases only one or two joints is affected, and the symptoms are mild. Some people face a more serious form of the disease.

    Conventional treatment of this major type of arthritis includes the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, biologic drugs, which are derived from living cells, and in some cases surgery. Diet and exercise, hot and cold therapy, and the use of cleansing herbs such as burdock can be beneficial for this condition.

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    Other Major Types of Arthritis — Infectious Arthritis and GoutRead on to learn about other major types of arthritis, one that is easily treated, and another that primarily affects men.
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    Infectious Arthritis

    This type of arthritis has a specific cause and a specific treatment. A bacterial, viral, or fungal infection occurs at a joint. Usually what happens is an infection in one area of the body spreads as the offending microorganism enters the bloodstream. Signs of this illness include pain, swelling, and even redness around the affected area. Signs of an infection, such as fever, chills, and body aches are usually present too. Infectious arthritis is treated by taking an antibiotic to treat the infection.

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    Gout

    Gout is a very acute form of arthritis. Sudden, sharp pain and swelling affects one or more joints. The most common affected joint is the big toe. The cause — uric acid crystals that are deposited in the joint. What causes the uric acid crystals? A lack of the digestive enzyme uricase, which is needed to oxidize insoluble uric acid into a highly soluble compound.

    Factors that can contribute to this condition include a poor diet, obesity, stress, surgery, excessive alcohol consumption, hypertension, kidney disease, and some drugs. Where women are most often affected by the other types of arthritis gout usually affects men.

    Gout can be treated with corticosteroids or medications for the pain and inflammation (do not take aspirin for gout as this can make it worse). There are also medications that can be prescribed to prevent future attacks. Managing diet and drinking plenty of fluids can also help with this condition.

    Aside from the major types of arthritis there are many other related conditions that can affect the joints or cause similar symptoms, such as fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and scleroderma. If you believe you suffer from arthritis, in whatever form of the disease, see your doctor right away. If left untreated arthritis can cause damage to joints and bone and in some cases can affect the body's organs. While arthritis cannot always be cured, it can be managed with a healthy lifestyle and your choice of medications or alternative therapies.

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    References

    National Psoriasis Foundation <http://www.psoriasis.org/netcommunity/sublearn02_treat>

    Web MD <http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/gout-topic-overview>

    Balch, Phyllis, CNC. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition." (The Penguin Group, 2006).

    Page, Linda. "Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition" (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).

    photo by George Foster (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/gfoster67/4794543599/>