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The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), also known as “wear and tear” or degenerative arthritis. It is estimated that approximately 10% of people in the United States are affected by osteoarthritis, rising to 70% to 90% of people older than 75. OA is caused by the gradual degeneration of joint cartilage, which normally acts to cushion the bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage replaces itself, a process that is disrupted when osteoarthritis sets in. When the cushion of cartilage disappears, the bones can thicken and often produce bone spurs that protrude into the joint, causing inflammation and subsequent pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis is most commonly found in the knees, hips, hands, and spine.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by pain, stiffness, and tenderness in the joints, muscles, and tendons. These symptoms are accompanied by sleep problems, fatigue, and anxiety. Patients suffer generalized aching and pain and have multiple tender points (areas of localized pain when pressure is applied) located in the neck, spine, shoulders, hips, and knees. A diagnosis of FM is made when pain has persisted for longer than three months and the patient has pain in 11 of the 18 specific tender point areas.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, as is rheumatoid arthritis among adults. The immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues, resulting in pain, swelling, and heat around the joints. Scientists suspect a genetic tendency toward the disease, triggered by a bacterial or viral infection. JRA onset has been linked to the rubella virus and enteric (intestinal) bacterial infections, among others, but research continues to investigate this relationship.
Gout accounts for about 5% of all arthritis cases, affecting close to 1 in 30 Americans. It is one of the most painful of all rheumatic diseases. Gout results when deposits of uric acid crystals locate in different parts of the body, most frequently the joints. Uric acid crystals form when there is an excess of uric acid (hyperuricemia) built up in the body. This can result from the body producing too much uric acid or not excreting enough of the acid through the kidneys.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the most common connective tissue disorder, is a chronic autoimmune disorder. It occurs in approximately 1% to 2% of the population and is two to three times more likely to be diagnosed in women than in men, often developing in women between the ages of 30 and 50. Among the elderly, men and women are equally likely to develop RA.