The chances are you know someone affected by the condition known as arthritis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call it ‘the most common cause of disability in the United States’ and it is estimated that almost 21 million adults and children are affected. With this in mind, we put together this complete guide to arthritis to help you better understand this condition, and all its different forms…

Types of arthritis

There are many different types of arthritic condition, all of which affect the body in different ways and each has its own range of severity. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:

i. Osteoarthritis

When you suffer from osteoarthritis, the cartilage in your joints (normally in the hands, knees, hips or spine) begins to waste away, resulting in pain and stiffness. It is the most common form of arthritis in the United States, with 13% of over-25s and over one-in-three over the age of 65 confirmed as suffering from the condition in 2005. The condition generally develops in those that are over 50 and there is no cure. However, with treatment, osteoarthritis can be managed well in most cases.

ii. Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than osteoarthritis, but can be far more severe and dibilitating, and in some cases can lead to death, disability and a vastly reduced quality of life. It is thought that when the joints are affected by arthritis, a fault in the body’s immune system leads it to attack the afflicted area, which erodes the lining, cartilage and bone of multiple joints and may also affect the body’s organs. Afflicted areas are prone to redness, pain and swelling, and in certain cases rheumatoid arthritis can cause deformity.

iii. Gout

Gout can affect any area of the body, but is generally found in the big toe. It is a rheumatic disease that results from sodium urate crystals building up in the blood and being deposited around the body. It is thought to be caused by overuse of beer and spirits, certain types of common medication and meat-rich, seafood-heavy diets. The condition is more common in men than women.

iv. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that can cause severe pain in several areas of the body, including the tendons, ligaments and muscles. There are many other symptoms which can be displayed by Fibromyalgia sufferers, including psychological issues, cognition issues with memory and thinking , sleep disturbance, irritable bowel syndrome and altered pain processing. Around 2% of the population are thought to have Fibromyalgia and the condition is far more prevalent in women than men.

v. Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic form of arthritis which affects areas of the spine, including the ligaments, muscles and bones. We do not yet know the cause for the disease, but it is thought to be linked with the HLA-B27 gene. The condition’s symptoms can vary greatly, but at the very least a sufferer can expect to be afflicted with back pain and some stiffness. However, Ankylosing spondylitis can be more serious, and around one in ten of sufferers are at risk of long-term disability.

vi. Lupus

Lupus, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic – or long-term – disease that is thought to be caused by the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells. Not much is known about what causes these issues with the immune system, but symptoms of the attacks can include large-scale inflammation, tissue damage, fatigue and damage affecting the major organs and the blood vessels. 90% of SLE sufferers are women and most cases occur in women of child-bearing age.

vii. Cervical Spondylitis

Cervical spondylitis is very common and is a term used to describe the effects of general wear and tear on the spinal disks in your neck as you get older. Over 90% of people over the age of 65 have some evidence of cervical spondylitis, however, most people will feel no symptoms from the condition and it is normally easily treated.