Although over 100 different conditions can cause arthritis symptoms, the two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms for the two may be similar, but they have very different causes and can affect people of different ages.
There is no cure for arthritis and can cause patients significant difficulties performing even simple tasks without being constantly reminded of their condition. Regardless of the type of arthritis a patient has, most sufferers have joint pain and stiffness, swelling, mobility issues or reduced range of motion, and can even have areas of the body that are red and warm to the touch due to inflammation. These symptoms can be frustrating and depressing, so if you know someone dealing with arthritis, try to be empathetic and understanding. There are even support groups, both in person and online, that exist specifically to encourage those who are trying to adjust to life changes their disease has brought.
Osteoarthritis is the type we normally associate with old age. It is mainly caused by joint overuse and the breakdown of cartilage that prevents bones from rubbing together. However, some younger people who have had joint injuries or are overweight can also experience osteoarthritis. It can affect almost any joint in the body, but most commonly the hands, wrists, neck, back, knees and hips. The joint damage cannot be reversed, except by joint replacement surgery, but it can be treated and the progression slowed.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that can affect people of any age. In fact, over a quarter million children in the US have this disease, often referred to as juvenile arthritis. In patients with RA, their immune system attacks their joints, causing pain and inflammation. It most commonly affects hands and feet. RA is a progressive disease but can be curbed by medication.
Treatments and Relief
Though millions of people are hoping for a cure, right now there are only treatments to reduce symptoms and slow down progression. Available medications for arthritis include both over-the-counter and prescription pain killers and anti inflammatory drugs. Physical therapists can also help increase joint mobility through exercise, ultrasounds, and other methods. Surgery is an option, but reserved as a last resort for severely damaged joints and very advanced cases.