Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Arthritis Health Center

Font Size

Coping with Arthritis in Its Many Forms

Research Under Way continued...

Increased knowledge of immunology and the inflammatory process offers more immediate promise. Researchers have developed a drug that blocks the effects of TNF-alpha, an inflammatory protein responsible for reactions resulting in joint damage. In short-term preliminary trials, the drug significantly reduced symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Such results are encouraging, but the ultimate goal is to understand what starts the immune response in the first place. "Until you know the real cause, you're not going to have the right drug," Ginsburg says.

That quest continues and offers hope. But short of a cure, enlightened coping may be the most promising avenue to a less taxing life for people with arthritis.

Common Types of Arthritis

Of more than 100 different kinds of arthritis, these are the most common:

Osteoarthritis

Also called degenerative arthritis. Occurs when the cushioning cartilage in a joint breaks down. Commonly affects feet, knees, hips, and fingers. Affects 16 million Americans, mostly 45 and older. About half of those 65 and older have this form.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Immune system attacks the lining, or synovial membrane, of the joints. Joint damage can become severe and deforming. Involves the whole body, and may also cause fatigue, weight loss and anemia, and affect the lungs, heart and eyes. Affects about 2.1 million Americans, three times more women than men.

Gout

Causes sudden, severe attacks, usually in the big toe, but any joint can be affected. A metabolic disorder in which uric acid builds up in the blood and crystals form in joints and other places. Drugs and attention to diet can control gout. Affects about 1 million Americans (70 to 80 percent men), with first attack starting between 40 and 50 years of age. (See "Getting to Know Gout," FDA Consumer, March 1995.)

Ankylosing Spondylitis

A chronic inflammatory disease of the spine that can result in fused vertebrae and rigid spine. Often milder and harder to diagnose in women. Most people with the disease also have a genetic marker known as HLA-B27. Affects about 318,000 Americans, usually men between the ages of 16 and 35.

Juvenile Arthritis

The most common form is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis diagnosis, treatment, and disease characteristics are different in children and adults. Some children recover completely; others remain affected throughout their lives. Affects about 200,000 Americans.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Bone and other joint tissues become inflamed, and, like rheumatoid arthritis, it can affect the whole body. Affects about 5 percent of people with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease. Likely to affect fingers or spine. Symptoms are mild in most people but can be quite severe. Affects about 160,000 Americans.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Involves skin, joints, muscles, and sometimes internal organs. Symptoms usually appear in women of childbearing age but can occur in anyone at any age. Also called lupus or SLE, it can be mild or life threatening. Affects at least 131,000 Americans, nine to ten times as many women as men.

WebMD Public Information from the FDA

Today on WebMD

Osteoarthritis Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
Sore feet with high heel shoes
SLIDESHOW
 
Knee exercises
Slideshow
Woman in gym
Slideshow
 
xray of knees with osteoarthritis
Slideshow
close up of man wearing dress shoes
Slideshow
 
feet with gout
Quiz
close up of red shoe in shoebox
Slideshow
 
salad
Video
two male hands
ARTICLE
 
Woman massaging her neck
Quiz
5 Lupus Risk Factors
Article