Common Forms of Arthritis And Related Conditions

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Juvenile arthritis is a general term for all types of arthritis that occur in children. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most prevalent form in children, and there are three major types: polyarticular (affecting many joints), pauciarticular (pertaining to only a few joints), and systemic (affecting the entire body). The signs and symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis vary from child to child. There is no single test that establishes conclusively a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis, and the condition must be present consistently for six or more consecutive weeks before a correct diagnosis can be made. Heredity is thought to play some part in the development of juvenile arthritis. However, the inherited trait alone does not cause the illness. Researchers think this trait, along with some other unknown factor (probably in the environment), triggers the disease. The Arthritis Foundation says that juvenile arthritis is even more prevalent than juvenile diabetes and cerebral palsy.

Gout is a disease that causes sudden, severe attacks of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling in some joints. It usually affects one joint at a time, especially the joint of the big toe. The pain and swelling associated with gout are caused by uric acid crystals that precipitate out of the blood and are deposited in the joint. Factors leading to increased levels of uric acid and then gout include excessive alcohol intake, hypertension, kidney disease, and certain drugs.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the spine that can fuse the vertebrae to produce a rigid spine. Spondylitis is a result of inflammation that usually starts in tissue outside the joint. The most common early symptoms of spondylitis are low back pain and stiffness that continues for months. Although the cause of spondylitis is unknown, scientists have discovered a strong genetic or family link, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Most people with spondylitis have a genetic marker known as HLA-B27. Genetic markers are protein molecules located on the surface of white blood cells that act as a type of "name tag." Having this genetic marker does not mean a person will develop spondylitis, but people with the marker are more likely to develop the disease than those without. Ankylosing spondylitis usually affects men between the ages of 16 and 35, but it, also affects women. Other joints besides the spine may be involved.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that can involve the skin, kidneys, blood vessels, joints, nervous system, heart, and other internal organs. Symptoms vary among those affected, but may include a skin rash, arthritis, fever, anemia, hair loss, ulcers in the mouth, and kidney sediment or function abnormalities. In most cases, the symptoms first appear in women of childbearing age; however, lupus can occur in young children or older people. Studies suggest that there is an inherited tendency to get lupus. Lupus affects women about 9 to 10 times as often as men. It is also more common in African-American women.

Related Arthritis Conditions
Bursitis, tendinitis and myofascial pain are localized, nonsystemic (not affecting the whole body) painful conditions. Bursitis is inflammation of the sac surrounding any joint that contains a lubricating fluid. Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon, and myofascial pain is a problem that results from the strain or improper use of a muscle. These conditions may start suddenly, and usually stop within a matter of days or weeks.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which pressure on the median nerve at the wrist causes tingling and numbness in the fingers. It can begin suddenly or gradually, and can be associated with another disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or it may be unrelated to other conditions. If untreated, it can result in permanent nerve and muscle damage. With early diagnosis and treatment, there is an excellent chance of complete recovery.

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a condition with generalized muscular pain, fatigue, and poor sleep that is believed to affect approximately 2 percent of the U.S. population, or 5 million people. The name fibromyalgia means pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. The condition mainly affects muscles and their attachments to bones. Although it may feel like a joint disease, the Arthritis Foundation says it is not a true form of arthritis and does not cause deformities of the joints. Fibromyalgia is instead a form of soft tissue or muscular rheumatism.

Infectious arthritis is a form of joint inflammation that is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. The diagnosis is made by culturing the organism from the joint. Infectious arthritis can be cured by antibiotic medications.

Psoriatic arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis. About 5 percent of people with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease, also develop psoriatic arthritis. In psoriatic arthritis, there is inflammation of the joints and sometimes the spine. Fewer joints may be involved than in rheumatoid arthritis, and there is no rheumatoid factor in the blood.

Reiter's syndrome involves inflammation in the joints, and sometimes where ligaments and tendons attach to bones. This form of arthritis usually develops following an intestinal or a genital/urinary tract infection. People with Reiter's syndrome have arthritis and one or more of the following conditions: urethritis, prostatitis, cervicitis, cystitis, eye problems, or skin sores.

Scleroderma is a disease of the body's connective tissue that causes thickening and hardening of the skin. It can also affect joints, blood vessels, and internal organs. There are two types of scleroderma: localized and generalized.

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By Carol Lewis

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