Learning About Arthritis And Its Many Forms


As most middle-aged men and women would attest, an aging body is one that experiences more than a few changes. Among the more common changes are a decrease in vision or hearing and a reduction in how much exercise the body can take.

While everyone's body is different, it's safe to say both men and women can expect a change or two in their body's makeup, as they get older.

One of the most common chronic health problems among Americans is arthritis, which affects 46 million adults in the United States alone. While most people are aware of the word "arthritis," they might not be aware of the specifics surrounding these conditions.

What is arthritis?

Unbeknownst to many people, arthritis is not actually a single disease. In fact, arthritis refers to more than 100 medical conditions. And though arthritis is commonly associated with senior citizens, it is not restricted to the older set. While the most common form of arthritis generally afflicts those over the age of 60, young adults, the middle-aged and even infants are not immune to arthritis.

So why is arthritis such a blanket term? All types of arthritis share one commonality, which is, they affect the musculoskeletal system, in particular the body's joints.

Arthritic conditions can result in pain, stiffness and inflammation of the joints and can cause damage to a joint's cartilage as well.

Damaged cartilage can make seemingly ordinary tasks such as brushing your teeth, walking or even using your computer's keyboard very difficult.

While joint problems are the piece that links all types of arthritis, the damage done by arthritis can extend beyond the joints as well. Systemic arthritis can affect the body's major organs, such as the heart, lungs and kidneys, among other things.

Who gets arthritis?

According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than half those affected with arthritis are under the age of 65. Those numbers include the nearly 300,000 children who suffer from an arthritic condition.

As for men and women, women are more likely to be stricken with arthritis. Of the more than 41 million cases of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, roughly 24 million are women.

What Are the Types of Arthritis?

Though there are more than 100 medical conditions classified under the umbrella term arthritis, the following types are a few that qualify.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This affects mostly women and is one of the most disabling forms of arthritis. It's serious because, as the joint becomes inflamed, it has an adverse affect on the body's immune system.
  • Juvenile arthritis: Like the term "arthritis," juvenile arthritis is a general term and refers to a handful of arthritic conditions affecting children.
  • Fibromyalgia: This can be very painful, affecting the muscles and attachments to the bone. Rare in men, fibromyalgia mainly affects women.
  • Gout: Unlike fibromyalgia, gout affects mostly men and is often the result of a defect in body chemistry, one that can be brought on by poor diet. Fortunately, gout, which often attacks the big toe, can typically be controlled by both medications and by making positive changes in diet.
  • Osteoarthritis: This occurs as bone cartilage begins to deteriorate. As the cartilage at the ends of bones deteriorates, bone begins to rub against bone, making osteoarthritis one of the more painful and difficult to live with forms of arthritis. The most prevalent form of arthritis, osteoarthritis greatly limits a person's movements as the cartilage continues to deteriorate.

For more on arthritis

To learn more about arthritis and its many forms, visit the Arthritis Foundation Web site at www.arthritis.org.

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