Arthritis is a general term for a group of painful conditions that involve inflammation and stiffness of the joints. The different types of arthritis can occur in any joint in the body, including the hands, shoulders, knees, hips and ankles. As a degenerative condition, it’s the primary cause of disability in the U.S., and more than 50 million adults are affected. The condition develops more often at older ages and in women, but people of any age and gender are susceptible to it. In fact, the U.S. currently has about 300,000 cases of children with some form of the disease.
Arthritis occurs for many reasons, depending on the type. Understanding the causes for the different types may not help you avoid developing it, but it can help you recognize the early signs of the disease. Early treatment gives you an edge in fighting the joint degeneration that goes with every form of arthritis.
What Are the Types of Arthritis?
As a broad classification for diseases that affect the joints, arthritis can be broken down into four different types: degenerative, inflammatory, infectious and metabolic. Degenerative arthritis consists of osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis includes rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Infectious arthritis occurs when a joint becomes infected. Reactive arthritis and septic arthritis are two forms of infectious arthritis. In metabolic arthritis, uric acid builds up and creates crystals in the joint, causing a painful condition called gout.
The inflammation associated with the different types of arthritis can occur in just one joint or in multiple joints in the same area or even in different parts of the body. The predominant symptoms across all types of arthritis are pain, stiffness and swelling in the affected joints. In some cases, the swollen joints look red and irritated, although the skin itself isn’t affected. Range of movement is also generally limited in the affected joint.