Arthritis is a term that covers a wide number of diseases that are often characterized by inflammation in the joints. Inflammation can lead to redness and swelling, which can cause pain and joint stiffness often reported in arthritis. Common sites affected are the hip, knee, spine, and fingers, but arthritis can affect almost any part of the body.
Some of the most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis. Different types of arthritis can cause different symptoms and require different treatment. Currently, there is no cure for arthritis, but it may be managed with diet, exercise, and medications.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive disease that occurs due to damage in the joints to the cartilage and bone. Cartilage, a tough elastic material, protects bones at joints from rubbing against each other. Contact between the bones can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. The most common symptoms of OA include joint pain, morning stiffness for less than 30 minutes, and decreased range of motion in the affected joints.
Gouty arthritis, also known as gout, occurs due to high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a normally occurring waste product that is usually removed in urine. High levels of uric acid are not always harmful, but for some people, uric acid can form crystals in the joint. This can cause symptoms of pain and swelling.
A gout attack is characterized by pain and swelling that usually gets worse over 8-12 hours. The attack commonly happens at night. Symptoms usually improve over the next few days and are gone within a couple weeks. Even though there is no pain, high uric acid levels can still be causing damage, so it is a good idea to see your doctor after a gout attack.
Chronic gout can develop if there is high uric acid levels for many years. In chronic gout, gout attacks can become more common, the pain may not go away, and there may be more permanent joint damage. Treatment of gout often involves taking medications to reduce uric acid levels to prevent gout attacks and the development of chronic gout.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that can result in joint inflammation, damage and pain. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system - which normally protects the body from things like infection - mistakenly targets a part of the own body. RA will often affect the body symmetrically. That means if your right knee is affected, your left knee will also likely be affected. Treatment of RA often involves taking medications to help with pain, reduce inflammation and prevent permanent damage.