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Rheumatoid Arthritis
Lupus (SLE)


Arthritis Overview

Welcome to arthritis-faq.org, your source for answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about arthritis. In these pages you'll find helpful and informative facts about arthritis symptoms, causes, treatment, and more.

The word arthritis actually means joint inflammation. The term arthritis is used to describe more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues which surround the joint and other connective tissue. The pattern, severity and location of symptoms can vary depending on the specific form of the disease. Typically, rheumatic conditions are characterized by pain and stiffness in and around one or more joints. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Certain rheumatic conditions can also involve the immune system and various internal organs of the body.

Types of Arthritis:

Osteoarthritis (OA): Osteoarthritis is a disease characterized by degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint as well as bony overgrowth. The breakdown of these tissues eventually leads to pain and joint stiffness. The joints most commonly affected are the knees, hips, and those in the hands and spine. The specific causes of osteoarthritis are unknown, but are believed to be a result of both mechanical and molecular events in the affected joint. Disease onset is gradual and usually begins after the age of 40. There is currently no cure for OA. Treatment for OA focuses on relieving symptoms and improving function, and can include a combination of patient education, physical therapy, weight control, and use of medications.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disease which manifests itself in multiple joints of the body. The inflammatory process primarily affects the lining of the joints (synovial membrane), but can also affect other organs. The inflamed synovium leads to erosions of the cartilage and bone and possibly joint deformity. Pain, swelling, and redness are common joint manifestations. Although the definitive causes are unknown, RA is believed to be the result of a faulty immune response. RA can begin at any age and is associated with fatigue and prolonged stiffness after rest. There is no cure for RA, but new drugs are increasingly available to treat the disease. In addition to medications and surgery, good self-management, including exercise, are known to reduce pain and disability.

Gout: Gout is a rheumatic disease resulting from deposition of uric acid crystals (monosodium urate) in tissues and fluids within the body. This process is caused by an overproduction or under excretion of uric acid. Certain common medications and dietary foods are known to be contributory factors. Acute gout will typically manifest itself as an acutely red, hot, and swollen joint with excruciating pain. These acute gouty flare-ups respond well to treatment with oral anti-inflammatory medicines and may be prevented with medication and diet changes. Recurrent bouts of acute gout can lead to a degenerative form of arthritis called gouty arthritis.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system produces antibodies to cells within the body leading to widespread inflammation and tissue damage. The causes of SLE are unknown but are believed to be linked to genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. SLE may be characterized by periods of illness and remissions. SLE has a variety of clinical manifestations and can affect joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels. People with SLE may experience fatigue, pain or swelling in joints, skin rashes, and fevers. SLE predominately affects women between the ages of 15 and 40 and blacks more than whites. A team approach in treating lupus if often warranted due to the number of organ systems involved.

Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is a syndrome predominately characterized by muscular pains and fatigue. The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown; however researchers hypothesize that genetics and, physical and emotional stressors are possible contributory factors to the development of the illness. There are difficulties in diagnosing fibromyalgia, since its clinical picture can overlap other illnesses and there are no definitive diagnostic tests. Patient education, pharmacologic agents, and other nonpharmacologic therapies are used to treat fibromyalgia. Exercise has been found to improve outcomes for people with fibromyalgia.

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