Arthritis Takes Many Forms, Includes More Than 100 Different Diseases
If you suffer from joint inflammation and the resulting pain, swelling, redness, warmth and stiffness, you may be among the more than 53 million people affected by arthritis. Arthritis can occur at any age and includes more than 100 different diseases. Symptoms can develop suddenly or over time.
If you experience acute or chronic pain in your joints, have noticed redness, swelling, or warmth, speak with your primary care provider and consider an evaluation by a rheumatologist, a specialist in diagnosing and treating problems involving joints, soft tissues, autoimmune diseases, vasculitis, heritable connective tissue disorders and osteoporosis.
Among the forms of arthritis:
Osteoarthritis - The most common form of arthritis usually develops at the base of the thumbs, knees, shoulders, and hips. The cartilage that helps cushion the space between your joints wears away, which can lead to a crunching or cracking sound with pain on movement. At times, you may feel your joints locking, or even getting swollen from related bone on bone contact.
Rheumatoid arthritis - an inflammatory form of arthritis that can lead to joint and ligament destruction. It is caused by multiple immune related reactions where your body starts to attack your joints and can lead to permanent bone destruction. You may notice swelling of your hands and wrists during the morning hours. It can also affect the ankles and feet and any other joint.
Gout - a form of arthritis that affects more than 3 million people each year is caused by elevated uric acid levels in the body. This may be due to excess consumption of certain foods such as red meats, shellfish or alcohol or from improper excretion of uric acid. Symptoms include a sudden onset of severe, excruciating pain with a swollen, red, hot joint. If left untreated, Gout can lead to permanent damage and cosmetic deformities to the affected joints.
Spondyloarthropathies – a group of diseases in which individuals affected by psoriasis can ultimately develop psoriatic arthritis. Pain can develop in any joint especially the furthest part of your fingers and toes, and can swell up to look like “sausage digits.” Pain and inflammation can also be seen in the spine of affected individuals, resulting in stiffness and loss of mobility in the back.
Ankylosing spondylitis – a form of arthritis that affects young people. This is an inflammatory and destructive arthritis that starts in the lower back where the pelvis and hips connect – the sacroiliac joint. This can lead to chronic low back pain in the second and third decades of life. Other joints, such as ankles feet, knees, elbows may also be affected, leading to pain and swelling. The pain is often not severe and can go unnoticed for years without being accurately diagnosed.
Other forms of arthritis in this group can affect patients with idiopathic bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. There are various treatable infections that can also lead to joint pain and swelling.
Sanjay Godhwani, MD is a rheumatologist who practices in Port Jefferson.