Arthritis is a very broad category. It refers to joint pain in a general sense and includes hundreds of distinct diseases and disorders under its umbrella.
The two most common different types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is perhaps the best-known variety of arthritis, and is what many people associate with the term. It is caused by wear and tear on the joints.
In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is not particularly influenced by the patients’ lifestyles, but is a type of autoimmune disease or disorder. The white blood cells attack healthy, natural tissue in the joints, causing pain and deterioration of the bones, cartilage, and other tissues over time. While causes are not entirely clear, genetic factors, sex, age, and environmental factors may play a part.
Psoriatic arthritis is more similar to rheumatoid arthritis than osteoarthritis. It is also a chronic, reoccurring disease in which the immune system attacks joints. It occurs, as the name suggests, about 15% of the time in patients who also experience psoriasis. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which often first manifests in the small joints of the fingers, psoriatic arthritis tends to affect large joints such as the knees or back.
There are many different types of arthritis, each with distinct symptoms, causes, and prognoses. Like rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis involves an excessive immune system response, but it occurs in more men than women, is caused by bacteria-instigated infections, and can generally be cured. It manifests as painful swelling of the lower extremities and may also involve symptoms related to the bowels and sex organs.
If you are experiencing swelling or pain in any of your joints and are concerned that you may have one of the different types of arthritis, it’s important to see a doctor and get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, as most of these variations can cause acute and/or lasting damage, but can be moderated, managed, or cured with early intervention.