When you hear the word arthritis, you might think about your neighbor talking about chronic knee pain, or your mother complaining about aches in her hand. Yes, these are examples of the most common type of arthritis known as osteoarthritis…
Even though osteoarthritis is by far the most common—usually due to age and degenerating joints—there are many more types. In fact, there are over 100 different forms of the disease and related conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Let’s take a look at the three most common types, where pain tends to strike for each, and the steps you can take to find some much-needed relief.
Let’s break down all the areas of pain. Whether you’re walking, cooking, or playing a sport—your muscles contract and release, applying tension to your joints. Inside each joint is a protective layer of cartilage, a flexible connective tissue that keeps things moving fluidly. When you have osteoarthritis (OA), the cartilage inside one or more of your joints begins to break down.
What does this lead to? Bones rubbing against one another, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and a decreased range of motion. OA is considered a degenerative condition that worsens over time. Even though it can occur in young adults, it’s most common in those aged 65 and up.
Where it hurts most: Depending on the person, symptoms vary greatly. OA can occur in any joint in the body, but the knees, hips, lower back, and neck are the most common spots. You might also see this arthritic condition surface in your fingers, which appear swollen, stiff, or tender, or even as bone spurs in your joints. In your feet, OA may appear as pain in the joint at the base of your big toe or ankles.
Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes overactive and attacks the lining of your joints. This leads to inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the joints to thicken. Over time, it can also damage the cartilage and bone.
RA affects approximately 1.5 million Americans. There is no cure yet, but remission is possible, so talk to your doctor if you think you have the signs or symptoms of RA.
Where it hurts most: More than one joint tends to be affected, particularly the small joints in your wrists, hands, and feet. You can experience RA as pain, tenderness, swelling, or stiffness for six weeks or longer. Not to mention that morning stiffness in those joints is common.
Due to chronic high levels of inflammation, other problems can surface such as dry and red eyes, dry mouth, gum irritation, shortness of breath, and bumps under the skin called rheumatoid nodules that develop over time. So if you have any of these symptoms, we encourage you to seek medical attention right away and start developing a game plan to alleviate symptoms.
Another autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body is psoriatic arthritis (PsA). PsA affects some people who have psoriasis—a skin condition that causes dry, red patches often topped with silvery scales. Usually, people develop psoriasis first and are then diagnosed with PsA later. However, in rare cases, joint pain surfaces before psoriasis skin lesions appear.
Where it hurts most: Main symptoms of PsA tend to resemble those of rheumatoid arthritis, like joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
But PsA is more likely to target body areas such as the ankles, toes, knees, lower back, and fingers. People with PsA also may have a sausage-like swelling along the length of their fingers or toes.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, or you’ve been dealing with similar types of arthritis pain, talk with your doctor. There are new treatment options out there—from topical gels to anti-inflammatory medication—that can provide relief.
Why does the Right Treatment Matter?
It’s important to find treatment so that your Arthritis doesn’t get worse over time. RA can permanently damage the bones and joints if left untreated.
It can be useful to track your symptoms and communicate with your doctor about how you’re feeling. Even small changes you notice can help with managing your Arthritis. The more your healthcare provider knows about your health and how your symptoms are affecting your life, the easier it will be to find a treatment that works best for you and your treatment.