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Arthritis Defined

Arthritis literally means joint inflammation, and it can affect joints in any part of the body. Joints are places in the body where two bones meet.

Many people use the term arthritis to refer to rheumatic diseases; however, the different kinds of arthritis comprise just a portion of the rheumatic diseases.

Arthritis is often a chronic disease, which means that it can affect you over a long period of time. Many forms of arthritis cause swelling, redness, heat, and pain.

Arthritis Defined - Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis among older people.

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage, the tissue that cushions the ends of the bones within the joints, breaks down and wears away. In some cases, all of the cartilage may wear away, leaving bones that rub up against each other.

Symptoms range from stiffness and mild pain that comes and goes to severe joint pain. Osteoarthritis affects hands, low back, neck, and weight-bearing joints such as knees, hips, and feet.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most frequent causes of physical disability among older adults.

The disease affects both men and women. Before age 45, osteoarthritis is more common in men than in women. After age 45, osteoarthritis is more common in women. By age 65, more than half of the population has x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one joint.

Osteoarthritis affects only joints, not internal organs.

Arthritis Defined - Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis not only affects the joints, but may also attack tissue in the skin, lungs, eyes, and blood vessels. People with rheumatoid arthritis may feel sick, tired, and sometimes feverish.

Rheumatoid arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system turns against parts of the body it is designed to protect.

Rheumatoid arthritis generally occurs in a symmetrical pattern. This means that if one knee or hand is involved, the other one is, too. It can occur at any age, but usually begins during a person's most productive years.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs much more frequently in women than in men. About two to three times as many women as men have the disease.

Arthritis Defined - Gout

Gout is a disease that causes the sudden onset of intense pain and swelling in the joints, which also may be warm and red. Attacks frequently occur at night and can be triggered by stressful events, alcohol or drugs, or the presence of another illness.

Before an attack, needle-like crystals of uric acid build up in connective tissue, in the joint space between two bones, or in both.

Uric acid is a substance that results from the breakdown of purines, which are part of all human tissue and are found in many foods. Early attacks usually subside within 3 to 10 days, even without treatment, and the next attack may not occur for months or even years.

Adult men, particularly those between the ages of 40 and 50, are more likely to develop gout than women, who rarely develop the disease before menstruation ends.

Sometime during the course of the disease, gout will affect the big toe in about 75 percent of patients. Gout frequently affects joints in the lower part of the body such as the ankles, heels, knees, or toes.

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The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

Copyright Information: Public domain information with acknowledgement given to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.


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Directory:Tell Me About Senior Health Arthritis