Understanding the Different Types of Arthritis

Understanding the Different Types of Arthritis

There are more than 100 types of arthritis, though just a few account for the majority of cases. Arthritis is an umbrella term that refers to various conditions that affect the joints.

Swelling and inflammation of the joint is characteristic of arthritis. If you have arthritis, it’s important to work together with your provider to properly manage your symptoms.

Internal medicine physician Samuel Fink, MD, provides comprehensive care for a full range of conditions, including arthritis. The type of arthritis you have is key to developing a management plan to ease your symptoms and minimize the impact on your quality of life.

Arthritis overview

Arthritis isn’t a single disease. The term is used to refer to a wide variety of conditions associated with joint inflammation. It strikes people of all ages and genders, but it is more common in women and older adults. 

Symptoms of arthritis depend on the type. Some people experience periods where symptoms flare up and worsen followed by periods where symptoms are mild or unnoticeable. Severity of symptoms vary greatly and can be mild, moderate, or severe. Some types of arthritis get worse over time.

Some of the most common arthritis symptoms include:

The goal of treatment is to relieve your symptoms so you feel and function better. 

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is by far the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 32 million people in the United States. It is a degenerative form of arthritis, also called wear-and-tear arthritis.

In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that provides cushion between your bones wears away, allowing the bones to rub together. This causes pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Rheumatoid arthritis 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease that occurs when your immune system attacks the joints. Normally, your immune system attacks invaders; in people with autoimmune disease, the immune system targets healthy tissue. 

RA typically attacks many joints at once and usually on one side of the body. It commonly affects the hands, wrists, and knees. The lining of the affected joints becomes inflamed, causing tissue damage. Over time, deformity may develop in the affected joint.

Psoriatic arthritis

While not as prevalent as osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis (PA) is another common form of arthritis that commonly affects people who have psoriasis, an autoimmune skin condition. People with psoriasis develop patches or scaly, red, cracked skin, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk, and scalp. 

For most people, psoriasis develops first, and the joint problems seen in psoriatic arthritis develop later. Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness are the most common signs of PA. 

Gout

Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis. It usually occurs in one joint at a time and most commonly affects the big toe. Gout develops as a result of uric acid crystals accumulating in a joint. It tends to come on suddenly and cause significant pain in the affected joint along with swelling. 

Certain dietary factors, such as eating a diet high in fructose, and lifestyle factors such as drinking excess alcohol and obesity raise the risk of gout. 

Spondyloarthropathies

These forms of arthritis affect the bones of the spine. Spondyloarthropathies are a group of rheumatic diseases that include ankylosing spondylitis. Psoriatic arthritis falls into this category as well. Ankylosing spondylitis causes chronic inflammation of the joints of the spine. In severe cases, the bones of the spine may fuse together, becoming stiff and inflexible.

Help for arthritis

Regardless of the type of arthritis you have, treatment options are available to help manage your symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups. The path to arthritis relief starts with a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Fink. To get started, call our office or request an appointment online today.

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