As people age, they may begin to feel persistent pain, stiffening, soreness and tenderness in their joints and surrounding tissue. Joints are important to our health and comfort since they connect major parts of our body. Located where two bones meet, some of our most major joints include fingers, wrists, hips, knees, elbows and toes. Pain in these areas affects mobility and physical function as well as quality of life. Many people, seniors in particular, experience joint pain, but assume it’s a normal part of aging. What they don’t know is that it’s likely a manageable type of arthritis.
Arthritis is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. There are more than 100 kinds of arthritis, five of which are the most common. These are all characterized by inflammation and pain, but they each have very different symptoms and treatments. It’s important to get a thorough evaluation and accurate diagnosis.
The five most common forms of arthritis include:
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition where the cartilage that protects the joints wears away causing bones to grind together. This results in stiffness, swelling and may be accompanied by a crunching sound. The most common places people experience osteoarthritis is in the hands, knees and hips. At least 27 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory disease where the body releases enzymes that kill the healthy tissue that lines joints. It usually targets our most major joints, but is most often found in the fingers and wrists. Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling, stiffness, malformation, and reduced movement and function. People with this condition may experience non-joint related symptoms like fatigue, weight loss and fever. Nearly 1.5 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that affects muscles and tissue, and is characterized by muscle pain and tender “trigger” points on the body. These places include the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs. Some of the most common symptoms are chronic muscle pain, stiffness, fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Fibromyalgia currently affects 5 million Americans.
Systemic lupus is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks tissue throughout the body. It causes damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, lungs and brain. There are a variety of symptoms with the most common including muscle and joint pain, rashes, chest pain and hair loss. Lupus falls under the generic umbrella of arthritis because both conditions are commonly found together. The disease affects nearly 1.5 million people nationwide.
Gout is a condition that occurs when the body builds up too much uric acid in the blood which causes hard, crystal like deposits in the joints. Gout pain is characterized by sudden burning, swelling and stiffness in the joint. The condition is primarily found in the big toe, but can also be located in the ankles, elbows, knees, wrists and fingers. About 3 million Americans suffer from gout.