It refers to more than 100 different types of arthritis conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, pseudogout, psoriatic arthritis, and fibromyalgia to name a few. Some of these conditions involve inflammation and others do not. These 100 different conditions pose unique problems for diagnosis and treatment.
Most types of arthritis involve joint inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection. Among these we have:
Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common serious inflammatory form of arthritis. It affects roughly 1 percent of the population and is the prototypical autoimmune form of arthritis. Because it may do most of its damage in the first year, early diagnosis and aggressive therapy is critical. Left untreated RA may shorten life expectancy by as much as 18 years!
Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis is a potentially serious inflammatory form of arthritis that is often found in association with psoriasis. Because it may begin and progress insidiously, it can cause serious problems. Early diagnosis and aggressive intervention are recommended.
Osteoarthritis: This type of arthritis is the one people think of as being associated with aging. osteoarthritis affects weight-bearing areas such as the spine, hips, knees, base of the thumbs, and feet. Genetics and mechanical factors also play a big role. Research is being done on medications that will slow down the progression of this disease.
Polymyalgia rheumatic: Polymyalgia rheumatica occurs in people after the age of 50 and presents with severe stiffness and aching in the neck, shoulders, and hips. Because it is very treatable, accurate diagnosis is needed. Because so many other conditions look like it, an accurate diagnosis is not always easy.
Ankylosing spondylitis: This inflammatory form of arthritis affects the spine and the sacroiliac joints. Since it often presents with low back pain, it is often misdiagnosed. AS is very treatable; accurate diagnosis and aggressive therapy are advisable
Reactive arthritis: Reactive arthritis is a form of arthritis that comes on after infections… the most common being types of infections being intestinal or genitourinary. Young adults are often affected. Appropriate medical treatment is very effective.
Gout: This common form of arthritis is due to deposition of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals. In addition to joints, the kidneys are a big target of this disease. Dietary changes and medicines are very effective in treating this disorder.
Pseudogout: This form of arthritis is also due to crystals- deposits of calcium pyrophosphate or hydroxyapatite in most instances. Pseudogout may mimic other types of arthritis such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis. Further, it may coexist with other types of arthritis making it very difficult to diagnose.
Systemic lupus erythematosus: This relatively common autoimmune disease is systemic in nature and capable of affecting many internal organ systems. SLE most often affects women in the child-bearing years. Early diagnosis and management are necessary since this disorder is potentially life-threatening.
Polymyositis: This inflammatory form of muscle disease is often associated with arthritis. Because it is a systemic condition that affects all muscles- including those that are responsible for the functioning of the heart, lungs, etc., careful examination and appropriate aggressive medical therapy are necessary.
Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is a soft tissue form of arthritis that is due to defective neurotransmitter function in the brain. Because these neurotransmitters are responsible for many sensory functions, patients with fibromyalgia present with bizarre symptoms. It is imperative that other forms of arthritis be ruled out first.
Lyme disease: Lyme disease occurs as a result of infection with Borrelia burgdorferi. The organism is transmitted by a deer tick bite. Early recognition and antibiotic therapy is effective in most cases.