Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions that destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues. These arthritic disorders produce pain and restrict movement.
The three most common diseases that make up arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage. It is associated with risk factors, such as obesity, history of joint injury and age. Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement of joints. The breakdown of this cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is not only a form of inflammatory arthritis but is also an autoimmune disease. The immune system normally protects our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria. Here it attacks the body’s own tissues, specifically the thin membrane that lines the joints. As a result, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain and inflammation throughout the body. This causes not only pain but also stiffness, warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage.
- Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe the autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger. It can involve the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract as well.