Did you know there is more than one type of arthritis? In fact, there are more than 100 types of arthritis. It's a condition that affects more than 46 million U.S. adults -- a number that's expected to increase to 67 million adults by the year 2030.
The false notion that all arthritis is alike has led people to try treatments that have little effect on their arthritis symptoms. Since each type of arthritis is different, each type calls for a different approach to treatment. That means an accurate diagnosis is crucial for anyone who has arthritis. With the proper diagnosis, you'll know what causes the pain. Then, you can be sure you're taking the proper steps to relieve the pain and continue to be active.
There are two major types of arthritis -- osteoarthritis, which is the "wear and tear" arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory type of arthritis that happens when the body's immune system does not work properly.
Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis. It affects about 33 million Americans and is the most common chronic joint condition.
Osteoarthritis results from overuse of joints. It can be the consequence of demanding sports, obesity, or aging. If you were an athlete or dancer in high school or college, you may be wondering why your knee or hip aches when you climb out of bed in the morning. Ask your doctor about osteoarthritis. It can strike earlier in life with athletes or those who suffered an injury in young adulthood. Osteoarthritis in the hands is frequently inherited and often happens in middle-aged women.
Osteoarthritis is most common in joints that bear weight -- such as the knees, hips, feet, and spine. It often comes on gradually over months or even years. Except for the pain in the affected joint, you usually do not feel sick, and there is no unusual fatigue or tiredness as there is with some other types of arthritis.
With osteoarthritis, the cartilage gradually breaks down. Cartilage is a slippery material that covers the ends of bones and serves as the body's shock absorber. As more damage occurs, the cartilage starts to wear away, or it doesn't work as well as it once did to cushion the joint. As an example, the extra stress on knees from being overweight can cause damage to knee cartilage. That, in turn, causes the cartilage to wear out faster than normal.
As the cartilage becomes worn, cushioning effect of the joint is lost. The result is pain when the joint is moved. Along with the pain, sometimes you may hear a grating sound when the roughened cartilage on the surface of the bones rubs together. Painful spurs or bumps may appear on the end of the bones, especially on the fingers and feet. While not a major symptom of osteoarthritis, inflammation may occur in the joint lining as a response to the breakdown of cartilage.