The most common cause of disability in America is arthritis. There are more than 19 million adult suffers with more being diagnosed daily. The word arthritis actually means inflammation of joints but is used to describe over 100 rheumatic diseases. Arthritis affects not only joints but the surrounding and connective tissue. Arthritis is usually characterized by pain and joint stiffness which can come on gradually or appear suddenly depending on the type.
The major types of arthritis are:
Childhood Arthritis - This is an umbrella term used to describe many different types of arthritis diagnosed in children younger than the age of 16. Currently the CDC estimates that 1 in 250 children have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Juvenile arthritis seems to occur more often in girls than boys.
Fibromyalgia -It is characterized by wide-spread pain and fatigue of unknown origin. It is hard to diagnose because its symptoms overlap with many other illnesses. About 5 million adults suffer from fibromyalgia and is more prevalent in women.
General - This is defined as any form of arthritis that causes pain and inflammation of the joints. This is the generic diagnosis where a specific classification is not used.
Gout - This type of arthritis is characterized by uric acid crystals collecting in the tissues and fluids of the body. The affected joint will appear red, hot and be extremely painful. Gout is more common among men and is recorded in much ancient history.
Osteoarthritis - This form of arthritis causes a degeneration of cartilage and bone within a joint as well as causing an overgrowth of bone. It can cause deformity of the hands and feet but can also affect the spine, hips and knees. Its cause is unknown and treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and improving movement and function.
Rheumatoid Arthritis - This type of arthritis affects the lining of joints. When the lining becomes inflamed it erodes the cartilage and bone leading to deformity as well as pain, swelling and redness. Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be the result of a faulty immune system and has been found to have a genetic link.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) - This form of arthritis is an immune system response which produces antibodies that cause widespread inflammation and tissue damage. It affects not only joints but skin, brain, kidneys and blood vessels. This causes not only pain but fatigue, skin rashes and fever. Lupus primarily affects young women and attacks black women more than white.