There are several types of arthritis. The most common types include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid or rheumatic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. All cause pain and limited range of motion, but they affect the body in different ways.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects over 1.3 million Americans. It's an autoimmune disease that's triggered by your immune system fighting your own body. Fluid builds up in your joints — most commonly the hands and fingers — causing pain and pressure. This results in the joints becoming deformed. It can cause significant disability as the fingers and hands become more deformed and painful.
Doctors don't know what causes rheumatoid arthritis, but some people are more at risk of developing it than others. It runs in families, and it affects more women than men. It often strikes after the age of 40, although it can affect younger people — even children. People who smoke or are obese are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is a degenerative arthritis of the joints that's caused by years of use. It is also one of the most common types of arthritis. It's estimated that about half of Americans will develop osteoarthritis as they age, and it's the most common cause of hip and knee replacements. Often called the "wear-and-tear" arthritis, osteoarthritis most often affects weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips, although it can develop in other joints as well.
Aside from age, factors that increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis include being a woman, being obese, genetics, bone deformities, and performing activities that put repetitive stress on the joints.
Psoriatic arthritis generally affects people who have the autoimmune disease psoriasis, although it's possible to have psoriatic arthritis without having psoriasis. It often first shows up between the ages of 30 and 50, and most people with psoriatic arthritis have family members who also have it. Psoriatic arthritis causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. It can affect any joint in your body, including the spine.
Unlike the other types of arthritis, people with psoriatic arthritis may be at risk of other body complications, such as eye problems (conjunctivitis or uveitis) and heart disease.
Post-traumatic arthritis develops in a joint that has been injured. A break or severe blow to a joint can cause the cartilage to wear out more quickly, causing arthritis. It's a wear-related type of arthritis, similar to osteoarthritis.
If you're experiencing pain in your joints, see your doctor for a check-up. After an examination, you may be sent for tests to determine if you do have arthritis. None of the types of arthritis are curable, but there are treatments that may help slow down the disease's progression and relieve pain. Physical therapists may help you learn ways of moving that minimize pain, and occupational therapists may provide you with adaptive tools if your sore joints make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
Arthritis can be a huge pain, literally and figuratively. But understanding the disorder can help you work with your doctor to improve your quality of life.