Many people use the word “arthritis” to describe general joint pain, but this umbrella term belies the nuances that distinguish more than 100 versions of the disease. It’s important to know exactly which type of arthritis you have, because the treatments vary.
Our extensive team of experts at CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center specializes in diagnosing all types of arthritis and developing treatment plans to address the unique symptoms of each. Here are the four most common types of arthritis.
We start our list with osteoarthritis (OA), because it’s the most prevalent. It affects about 32.5 million Americans — roughly 1 in 7.
Classic OA symptoms include:
- Stiff joints
- Painful or aching joints
- Less flexibility
- Decreased range of motion
If you have OA, you may find it difficult to perform ordinary daily tasks, such as writing a letter, getting in and out of your car, or walking up stairs. Osteoarthritis typically affects a specific joint — often the knee, hip, or hand.
Osteoarthritis results from the wear and tear your joints sustain over years of use. Eventually, the protective cartilage wears away, the bones rub against one another painfully, inflammation sets in, and the bone structure changes.
It’s most common among the elderly, but it can strike younger people who have injured a joint, have overused a joint (repetitive stress), or who are overweight.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) results when your immune system mistakenly marks your healthy cells as foreigners and mounts an ambush.
Commonly found in the hands, wrists, and knees, RA tends to affect multiple joints at once. As the disease progresses, it may affect the tissues in your eyes, heart, and lungs, as well.
In addition to the classic symptoms of painful, stiff joints, RA symptoms include:
- Symptoms in more than one joint
- Symmetrical symptoms on each side of the body
- Unexplained weight loss
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms often fluctuate, with periods of remission and acute flare-ups.
While medical professionals don’t know the exact cause of RA, we do know the factors that put people at risk. Women — especially those who have never given birth — get RA more often than men. Furthermore, genetics as well as obesity can make someone more prone to getting it. And if you smoke, this could make rheumatoid arthritis worse.
Another autoimmune disorder, psoriatic arthritis (PA) also attacks healthy tissue in the joints. Psoriatic arthritis and its dermatological cousin, psoriasis, often go hand in hand, usually attacking the fingers, toes, feet, and back. Sometimes the skin condition appears first, with its red patches and silvery scales, but more often, psoriatic arthritis comes first.
Chronic and progressive, PA gets worse over time and can become disabling without treatment. You may notice symptoms on one side of your body or both sides equally. Symptoms include:
- Extremely swollen fingers and/or toes
- Joint deformity
- Foot and ankle pain
- Lower back pain
Psoriatic arthritis causes inflammation in the joints that’s so severe that it can make them feel warm to the touch.
Like RA, it’s not clear why PA attacks some people and not others, but having psoriasis on your skin increases your likelihood of getting PA.
Gout is an inflammatory type of arthritis that tends to settle in the big toe, but it can affect other joints as well. This type of arthritis typically favors men.
Like most other types of arthritis, gout causes pain and stiffness in the affected joint. Gout-specific symptoms include the following:
- Flare-ups occur suddenly and often at night
- Pain is intense
- Acute attacks can last 3-10 days
- Joints may feel warm
- There are no symptoms between attacks
Without treatment, gout can become chronic and progressive.
Gout occurs when the body produces too much uric acid. Kidney, metabolism, and thyroid disorders can lead to excess uric acid in your bloodstream, as can dehydration. When uric acid builds up, it crystalizes in the joint and irritates the tissues, causing inflammation and deterioration.
You increase your chances of getting gout if you drink a lot of alcohol (especially beer), take certain medications — such as diuretics or cyclosporine — or have hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, or kidney disease.
Help for your arthritis
Regardless of the type of arthritis attacking your joints, you share one thing in common with all arthritic people: You have pain.
Fortunately, we’re experts in pain relief. Often, physical therapy is the best medicine, as movement can increase mobility and trigger the release of pain-relieving hormones. But, if severe pain prevents you from participating in healing activities, we can provide treatments to ease your symptoms, so you can partake in physical therapy.
We offer a variety of treatments that may be able to help you, including cold therapy, bracing, paraffin wax dips, medications, injections, and, if needed, surgery.
If you’re suffering from painful joints, we can give you a thorough evaluation and design a plan to help you get better. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center today.