Types of Arthritis
There are more than 100 different arthritis types. A few of the more common categories of arthritis include infectious arthritis, noninflammatory arthritis, and inflammatory arthritis. Infectious arthritis, which is caused by germs, can include tuberculosis arthritis, fungal arthritis, and spirochetal arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of noninflammatory arthritis. Some examples of inflammatory arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus arthritis.
"Arthritis" (which literally means joint inflammation) is not just a word healthcare providers use when they talk about painful, stiff, and swollen joints. In fact, it is a term used to refer to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases. These diseases may affect not only the joints, but also other parts of the body, including important supporting structures like muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. They can also affect internal organs.
With so many different arthritis types, healthcare providers often find it easier to separate arthritis types into categories. Common arthritis categories include the following:
- Noninflammatory arthritis (osteoarthritis being the most common)
- Inflammatory arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis and gout)
- Infectious arthritis (including septic arthritis)
- Hemorrhagic arthritis.
Noninflammatory arthritis types include:
- Neuropathic arthropathy (Charcot joint)
- Acute rheumatic fever (sometimes this is included in the inflammatory type)
Osteoarthritis (formerly known as degenerative joint disease) is not only the most common type of noninflammatory arthritis, it is also the most common type of arthritis in general. Osteoarthritis starts when cartilage begins to become ragged and wears away. Cartilage is the tissue that pads bones in a joint. In the worst cases of osteoarthritis, all of the cartilage in a joint wears away, leaving bones that rub against each other.
People are most likely to have osteoarthritis in the hands, neck, lower back, or large weight-bearing joints of the body, such as knees (see Knee Osteoarthritis) and hips.
Osteoarthritis symptoms can range from stiffness and mild pain that come and go with activities like walking, bending, or stooping; to severe joint pain that continues even when you rest or try to sleep.
Growing older is what most often puts you at risk of developing osteoarthritis (see Causes of Osteoarthritis for other risk factors). Other than that, arthritis research scientists think the cause depends on which part of the body is involved.
Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, various therapies can help patients manage symptoms and improve their overall quality of life (see Osteoarthritis Treatment and Diet for Osteoarthritis).