Forms of Arthritis
There are more than 140 different forms of arthritis, each of which affects you and your joints in different ways.
Most of the adults with arthritis in New Zealand have osteoarthritis. Other very common types are gout arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Learning about which form of arthritis you have will help you manage your condition better. Below are some of the most common types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It affects the whole joint, particularly the protective cushion of cartilage covering the ends of the bones. Although often described as simply due to ‘wear and tear’, it is now thought to be the result of a number of factors including inflammation, injury or ageing.
Gout arthritis (known commonly as ‘gout’) is the second most common form of arthritis in New Zealand, and particularly affects Māori and Pacific Island people. Sharp crystals of uric acid form in and around the joint, causing excruciating pain and swelling (often in the big toe). Gout arthritis attacks can come on quickly. If untreated, gout arthritis can become chronic, leading to permanent joint damage.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common inflammatory form of arthritis that causes painful, stiff, swollen joints and can affect people of any age. Instead of protecting the body from infection, the immune system attacks healthy tissue instead, causing inflammation and joint damage. As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other parts of the body.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints of the lower back. Symptoms include chronic back pain and stiffness. In severe cases, the affected joints in the spine may become fused and inflexible. There may also be deformity or curving of the spine.
Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus affects the joints and skin but it can also damage other internal systems such as kidneys, brain, blood, heart and lungs.
Fibromyalgia often causes widespread pain – people describe it as ‘hurting all over’. The pain can vary from person to person, come and go, and change in intensity during the day. Fibromyalgia often runs in families. People with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or ankylosing spondylitis are also more likely to develop fibromyalgia although it is not a disease of the joints or an inflammatory condition.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the name given to a number of types of arthritis that occur in children. JIA is an autoimmune condition. This means that the body’s immune system, which normally protects against infection, attacks healthy tissues by mistake, creating inflammation. The symptoms of JIA vary from person to person and can come and go from day to day and week to week. Symptoms will be worse during occasional ‘flares’; at other times the condition seems to disappear for a time.
Polymyalgia rheumatica is a common inflammatory condition that causes painful muscles and joints. It is characterised by moderate to severe pain and stiffness, mainly in the shoulders, hips and thighs. It is often accompanied by feeling tired and unwell. The good news is that polymyalgia rheumatica does not cause permanent damage to the joints.
Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that combines the painful, swollen joints of arthritis with the skin disease psoriasis that causes itchy red scaly patches on the skin and pitted, thickened nails. Between 10% and 30% of those who have the skin disease will also develop psoriatic arthritis, which can range from mild to severe and affect one or more joints.
Reactive arthritis refers to pain, swelling, stiffness or redness in a joint following an infection in the bowel or genital tract. The immune system (the body’s defence against infection) appears to overreact in response to the infection and starts attacking healthy tissue in the joints, causing them to become inflamed.
Scleroderma means ‘hard skin’ and describes a rare, chronic, and progressive autoimmune disease that causes patches of tight, hard skin. Some forms of the condition can also damage blood vessels, joints, and internal organs, such as the digestive system, lungs, heart and kidneys.
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition that causes damage to the salivary glands and tear glands, although it can also affect the joints, muscles, nerves and other organs. About half the people diagnosed with Sjögren’s also have other rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma.
Arthritis costs the economy $12.2 billion a year
48% of those with arthritis are of working age
Women are more affected by arthritis than men
People of any age can develop arthritis, including young children