The Different Types Of Arthritis

Arthritis means swelling of joints, which usually results in pains. These ailments can be classified in two broad categories, Acute Arthritis and Chronic Arthritis. Their further classification depends upon their etiology or cause and provides an indication of what is causing the disease. Awareness about arthritis can help patients in understanding the problem and manage it in a more efficient manner.
The Different Types of Arthritis
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Arthritis or joint swellings is one of the more common ailments faced by mankind and it can result from very different reasons, with each variety representing an independent disease unrelated to the other. It may be useful to have a broad idea about the types of arthritis in order to ensure how one should respond when faced with one of them...


With more than a hundred recognized varieties of arthritis documented in literature, the plethora of terms can seem very confusing. Hence, discussing the types based on some main characteristics is a preferable option.

The two broad categories are ACUTE ARTHRITIS

and CHRONIC ARTHRITIS.

Acute Arthritis

Acute arthritis is a rapidly progressing condition where the pain and swelling develop very fast, sometimes within a couple of days, and need to be treated immediately. These conditions do not persist for long periods. Mostly they subside after some time or else spread to involve parts of the body. The two most important types of arthritis that fall within this category are 'ACUTE INFECTIVE ARTHRITIS' and 'ACUTE RHEUMATIC ARTHRITIS'.

ACUTE INFECTIVE ARTHRITIS, also known by other terms like PYOGENIC ARTHRITIS, SEPTIC ARTHRITIS or SUPPURATIVE ARTHRITIS results from bacterial infection of the joint and formation of pus therein. The infection causes swelling and severe pain which appears and immediately becomes very severe. It seriously limits the functioning of the joint, and any attempt to move the joint may be very painful. This can be treated with antibiotics, and the relief from symptoms is also equally rapid. If treated promptly, there is no residual damage, and recurrence is not common.

ACUTE RHEUMATIC ARTHRITIS is an auto-immune condition, where an infection with a bacteria or a virus leads to development of immunity but the antibodies and killer lymphocyte cells which the immune system of the body produces to ward off the infection, instead attack certain structures of one's own body like the joints and heart valves, thereby causing pain and swelling of joints. This type of arthritis itself is self limited and usually recovers on its own, but the damage to heart valves is often permanent and hence this is more important as a symptom of Rheumatic heart disease. Relief can be provided by Aspirin and steroids in doses prescribed by the physician.

Chronic Arthritis

Chronic arthritis develops gradually and progresses slowly but often leads to lasting limitations and deformity of joints. They require long term medication, often needed for the rest of life, just for relief of pain and to minimize the swelling. Most diseases in this category are difficult to cure permanently. The most important types of arthritis that fall in this category are 'OSTEOARTHRITIS', 'CHRONIC AUTO-IMMUNE ARTHRITIS', 'CHRONIC INFECTIVE ARTHRITIS' and 'GOUT'.

OSTEOARTHRITIS, also termed DEGENERATIVE ARTHRITIS is a slowly progressing type of arthritis, the most common cause of which is acceleration of degenerative changes that are normally associated with aging. In osteoarthritis,


these changes often develop prematurely at an earlier age. These most commonly involve hip, elbow, spine, hand and feet joints. Other causes of osteoarthritis include injuries that increase friction in a joint, congenital abnormalities and infections.

CHRONIC AUTO-IMMUNE ARTHRITIS develops because of auto-immunity (as in acute auto-immune arthritis) and is probably the second most common and important type after osteoarthritis. A large number of clinically identified types of arthritis actually belong to this category, the most important of which is RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, a slowly developing type of arthritis that involves hands and feet in a characteristic manner, but goes on to affect most other joints too. Other types of arthritis in this category include ANKYLOSING SPONDILITIS, JUVENILE ARTHRITIS that affects children, STILL'S DISEASE that involves many other organs apart from joints and ENTEROPATHIC ARTHRITIS in which arthritis occurs along with involvement of the intestines. Arthritis that occurs in PSORIASIS and SARCOIDOSIS also belong to this category. There are many other rare varieties identified in this category but their details are more relevant for the experts, researchers and rheumatologists.

CHRONIC INFECTIVE ARTHRITIS is a somewhat rare type in developed world but is more common in some third world countries. It affects the spine and is mainly caused by Tuberculosis which develops as an accompaniment of tubercular infection of the bones, most commonly seen in the vertebrae. It can be treated with anti-tubercular medicines.

In GOUT the most common part involved is the great toe. The arthritis develops slowly, but there can be flaring up of joint swelling and pain. Gout results from high uric acid levels in blood which get deposited in the joints leading to injury swelling and pain. Treatment of Gout consists of controlling the uric acid levels by medicine and dietary measures.

The above classification is a convenient way of classifying the different varieties of arthritis, but arthritis can be classified in other ways too. An example is the classification based on number of joints involved, under which they can be termed as MONO ARTICULAR (involving only one joint), PAUCIARTICULAR (involving less than five joints), POLYARTICULAR (involving more than five joints) and SYSTEMIC (involving many joints as well as other structure of the body).
 



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