Arthritis affects the musculoskeletal system, specifically the joints.
It is the main cause of disability among people over fifty-five years of age in industrialized countries.
This is not a single disease – it is a term that covers over 100 medical conditions. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and generally affects elderly patients.
What is the cause?
In order to better understand what is going on when a person suffers from some form of arthritis, let us look at how a joint works.
If you have arthritis something goes wrong with the joint(s). What goes wrong depends on what type of arthritis you have. It could be that the cartilage is wearing away, a lack of fluid, autoimmunity (your body attacking itself), infection, or a combination of many factors.
There are over 100 types of this condition. Here is a description of some common ones, together with the causes:
• Osteoarthritis – cartilage loses its elasticity. If the cartilage is stiff it becomes damaged more easily. The cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber, will gradually wear away in some areas. As the cartilage becomes damaged tendons and ligaments become stretched, causing pain. Eventually the bones may rub against each other causing very severe pain.
• Rheumatoid arthritis – this is an inflammatory form of arthritis. The synovial membrane (synovium) is attacked, resulting in swelling and pain. If left untreated the arthritis can lead to deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis is significantly more common in women than men and generally strikes when the patient is aged between 40 and 60. However, children and much older people may also be affected.
• Infectious arthritis (septic arthritic) – an infection in the synovial fluid and tissues of a joint. It is usually caused by bacteria, but could also be caused by fungi or viruses. Bacteria, fungi or viruses may spread through the bloodstream from infected tissue nearby, and infect a joint. Most susceptible people are those who already have some form of arthritis and develop an infection that travels in the bloodstream.
• Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) – means arthritis that affects a person aged 16 or less. JRA can be various forms of arthritis; it basically means that a child has it