Millions of Americans suffer from the joint pain caused by arthritis. There are over 100 different types of the disease, and sometimes it is hard to determine, especially in early stages, exactly what type of arthritis a patient has. Many types can come on so slowly that they start to cause joint damage before a person even recognizes he/she has symptoms.
Seeing a doctor at the first sign of problems is a wise choice. Many people put it off or justify the reason for their joint pain, but getting an early diagnosis is key to starting on a treatment path that can prevent disability in the future. Not all treatments are the same. Here we will look at the three most common types of arthritis and how they affect the body.
This is by far the most common type of arthritis, and is most often found in people over 50 years of age. It is generally caused by joint wear and tear. The cartilage that acts as a cushion and lubrication for the joints breaks down and wears away, causing bones to rub on each other during movement. This can cause pain, stiffness, swelling and redness.
The pain, stiffness and inflammation that are present in rheumatoid arthritis seem similar to osteoarthritis, but RA is caused by an autoimmune disorder. For some reason that is not entirely understood, the body’s immune system sees proteins in cartilage as a foreign invaders and attacks them. The constant inflammation from the attack can cause extreme pain, and if left untreated, can spread to organs and elsewhere in the body. Sometimes, deformities can occur in extreme cases. This can affect people of any age. In fact, there are over a quarter of a million children in the US who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
This type of arthritis is actually an infection in the joint. It can be due to a specific injury to that joint, or the germs can travel through the bloodstream from another part of the body and settle in a joint. Bacteria, viral, or fungal infections can cause septic arthritis, but it is most frequently caused by staph. It can affect people of any age, but infants and elderly are most susceptible. The knee joints are the most common infection site, but it can also affect hips, shoulders, or other joints. It causes similar symptoms as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but sometimes a fever can accompany septic arthritis because your body is trying to fight off the infection.
Other Reasons for Pain
Gout causes symptoms similar to arthritis, such as pain and joint damage. Gout occurs when the body produces too much uric acid and it settles around a joint. The big toe is normally affected first.
Joint pain can also be caused by injuries, as well as bone spurs or bursitis. That is why it is critical to see a doctor for any type of joint pain so he/she can determine the origin and give you a proper diagnosis. Aside from a physical exam, your doctor may do x-rays, MRIs, blood tests or urine tests. Treatments can vary depending on the reason for joint pain, so it’s imperative to begin the correct treatment to both aid your discomfort and prevent irreversible damage.