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Arthritis — You Should Know about Different Types

Chances are you or someone you know has arthritis. About 40 million Americans have this condition. That’s equivalent to the total combined populations of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. It’s the leading cause of disability in America.

You may associate arthritis with aging, but over a quarter million children have arthritis.

What is Arthritis?

The term arthritis applies to conditions that affect joints and joint tissues usually in fingers, wrists, hips, knees and toes. It can result in pain, stiffness and swelling where bones meet in joints. In time, a swollen joint can become permanently damaged. Some types of arthritis can create problems in organs such as the eyes or skin.


The symptoms of arthritis generally include pain and reduced movement of the joints. Along with swelling, the joints may be red, warm to the touch and tender.

Arthritis has different types that may result is different symptoms.

  • Osteoarthritis is the most common type, affecting about 21 million people. It affects more women than men. This type of arthritis is caused by simple wear and tear on joints — due to an injury or aging. Symptoms include:
    • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling. If osteoarthritis is in the leg joints, there will be pain or stiffness when standing or walking, using stairs or getting in or out of chairs.
    • A grating or crunching feeling when the joint is used.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (also called rheumatoid pannus) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. With this type of arthritis, the body’s immune system gets off track and begins to mistakenly attack healthy cells. Symptoms include:
    • Difficulty walking.
    • Neck pain.
    • Loss of bowel or bladder control.
    • Difficulty moving or coordinating arm and hand movement.
  • Juvenile arthritis (JA) occurs in children. There are different types of JA. They have the same symptoms as arthritis in adults.
    • An early sign of JA may be limping in the morning. Some children have a flare up or two and that’s all. For others the symptoms don’t go away.
  • Infectious arthritis (also called septic arthritis) is an infection that has spread from another part of the body to a joint. Symptoms include:
    • Intense joint pain.
    • Joint redness and swelling.
    • Chills and fever.
    • Lack of mobility of the infected joint.
  • Psoriatic arthritis is part of the skin disease psoriasis. Symptoms include:
    • Swollen fingers and toes.
    • Foot pain.
    • Lower back pain.
  • Gout occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the body. This painful type of arthritis often starts in the big toe. Symptoms include:
    • Warmth, pain, swelling and joint tenderness.
    • Red or purplish skin around the affected joint.
    • Limited joint movement.
    • Skin peeling and itching around the affected joint as the gout gets better.

What Are the Treatments for Arthritis?

For most people, medicines and physical therapy can help maintain movement and reduce pain and swelling. Treatment will vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. In the most advanced cases, a surgical joint replacement may be recommended. Some people with arthritis find relief through these steps:

  • Take medicines consistently as recommended by your health care provider.
  • Explore non-prescription herbs or medicines you can try. Tell your provider what you’re considering.
  • Keep your weight down. Extra weight is an extra strain on joints.
  • Eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
  • Exercise. Walking, low-impact aerobics, swimming, tai chi or low-stress yoga help some people. Check with your health care professional before beginning an exercise activity.
  • Take a warm bath or shower.

If you wonder if you have arthritis, your health care professional can make an accurate diagnosis and provide helpful guidance about treatment and management of arthritis so you can continue doing things you enjoy.

Meet the Author

William B. Lutes, DO is an Orthopedic Surgeon at Aurora Health Center in Kenosha, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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