Ever wondered what the difference was between the different forms of arthritis? Chances are you have heard the terms arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and psoriatic arthritis. Despite these types of arthritis being the most common forms, there are many more than exist. In fact, according to Arthritis.org, there are over 100 different forms of arthritis and related diseases.
Each form of arthritis has different symptoms, causes, and even pain levels. With almost 54 million adults suffering from arthritis, we want to help educate you about the most common forms of arthritis and what can you do about it.
If you have ever enjoyed chicken wings or a turkey leg, you may have noticed a clear covering around the bone; this clear covering is actually the cartilage. The cartilage serves as a padding at the ends of the bones in the joint. When the cartilage within the joint breaks down, or starts to deteriorate, osteoarthritis (OA) occurs. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint in the body, but it is most commonly found in the hands, hip, knee, and spine.
As the cartilage breaks down, movement at the joint can become more painful. Over time, the cartilage may break down to the point where bone is rubbing against bone within the joint which may lead to more extreme pain. Other symptoms of OA include: tenderness, loss of flexibility, stiffness, bone spurs, or a sensation of grinding. It is important to note, however, that the signs and symptoms of OA vary greatly from patient to patient. Some patients may be completely disabled due to their symptoms, while others only notice intermittent pain.
Osteoarthritis within different joints can have different causes. For example, osteoarthritis of the knees can be linked to obesity, trauma to the joint, or overuse. Whereas OA of the hands may be genetic.
Most people’s immune systems help to protect them from viruses, bacteria, and other foreign bodies. With rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system starts to attack the body’s joints and organs. Specifically in RA, the body attacks the synovium of the joint causing pain and swelling. Most commonly, rheumatoid arthritis starts by attacking the smaller joints in the hands and feet.
When rheumatoid arthritis occurs, you may notice swelling and stiffness in the joints, fatigue, fever, tenderness and warmth at the joint, and even weight loss. As the RA worsens, symptoms will spread to the larger joints of the body such as the knees, elbows, hips, and shoulders. As the RA progresses, swelling can increase which leads to bone erosion and even deformity of the joint.
Symptoms typically occur in the same joints on both sides of the body whereas with osteoarthritis, it may only affect one particular joint on one side of the body. Unfortunately, RA has other signs and symptoms not related to the joints. Structures of the body that may be affected include the kidneys, heart, lungs, eyes, bone marrow, and nerve tissue.
Rheumatoid arthritis does have genetic links. Although your genes aren’t the direct cause of RA, they can make you more susceptible to factors that trigger the disease. Other factors that increase your risk of RA include your age, family history, obesity, smoking, exposure to harmful substances like asbestos, and your sex (women are more likely to develop RA).
When uric acid crystals buildup in the joints, gout occurs. If and when the body produces too much uric acid, or is unable to get rid of excess uric acid that we commonly get in our foods, it causes a buildup in our blood. When in excess, uric acid travels to the joint and forms crystals which leads to sudden and extreme joint inflammation. (Uric acid is also responsible for kidney stones!). It is not uncommon for someone to wake up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain with gout. Most common in the big toe, the weight of a blanket or even a sheet on the foot cannot be tolerated. Other joints can be affected including fingers, elbows, and the knees.
Common signs and symptoms of gout include swelling at the joint, warmth to the touch, redness, and tenderness. Pain in the joint can be intense and last for a couple of hours to a few weeks. Even when the most severe pain diminishes, there may be lasting discomfort in the joint. Every gout attack thereafter is likely to last longer and affect more joints within the body.
The most common risk factor for gout is your diet. Uric acid is in foods such as meat, seafood, and drinks with fructose. Additionally, the consumption of alcohol, more specifically beer, can increase your risks. Other factors include obesity, a family history of gout, age, sex, medications, and certain medical conditions such as heart & kidney diseases, as well as diabetes.
Some individuals who suffer from psoriasis will develop what is known as psoriatic arthritis. Although most people develop psoriasis first, it is possible for the joints to suffer before the skin. Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are considered chronic diseases that worsen over time. The body will go through periods of flares and periods of remission, however there is no cure.
Psoriatic arthritis can cause several symptoms. One being swelling in the hands and feet. Another is pain in the feet where the tendons and ligaments attach to bone (i.e. the achilles tendon in the sole of your foot); or, it even cause back pain. It is possible for someone with psoriatic arthritis to develop spondylitis, which is swelling of the joints between your vertebrae.
Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system begins to attack the healthy cells of the body. The attack triggers an inflammatory response and causes skins cells to overproduce. Researchers do not fully understand why the body turns against itself, but both factors such as genetics and the environment can play a role in the development of psoriatic arthritis.
Arthritis is a far-to-common condition that affects millions of people. It is predicted by the year 2040 that more than 78 million people will be diagnosed by a doctor as having arthritis. Although some factors cannot be changed, it is important to understand and take charge of the factors that you can control.
If you or someone you know have been diagnosed with arthritis, physical therapy can help!
As the joints weaken due to the damage and inflammation caused by arthritis, it is crucial to do what you can to strengthen the joints; and physical therapy can do just that. PT can also help with the pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion caused by arthritis.
Have questions about arthritis? Our physical therapists can help. Call us at (949) 713-6445 or contact us to get more information.