Arthritis literally means joint inflammation. Arthritis is not a single disease. Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 diseases and other conditions that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Some types of arthritis affect more than the joints. There can be systemic effects associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other types of arthritis.

Early arthritis symptoms can be vague and confusing, but they are important to recognize. Newly diagnosed patients quickly realize that early symptoms are just the first layer to be uncovered before a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan for arthritis can be established.

An accurate diagnosis precedes appropriate treatment of arthritis. With over 100 types of arthritis, early symptoms can overlap and diagnosis can be difficult. Your doctor will look for very specific signs, symptoms, and disease characteristics. Your doctor will also consider your medical history, physical examination, blood tests, and imaging studies.

Arthritis can affect any joint. Certain types of arthritis are associated with a specific pattern of joint disease. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is usually symmetric — affecting the same joint on both sides of the body. Other types of arthritis typically affect a single joint. It is important to tell the doctor about all of your symptoms and every joint that hurts. It will help the doctor to diagnose the type of arthritis. The most prevalent types of arthritis are as follows

Osteoarthritis is considered the most common type of arthritis. About 21 million Americans have osteoarthritis. The disease causes limited range of motion, joint pain, and stiffness that affect daily living activities. Osteoarthritis is caused by progressive deterioration of joint cartilage. Typically, osteoarthritis develops gradually.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory type of arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis associated with the chronic skin condition psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis usually develops when people are between 30 and 50 years old, but it can begin in childhood.

Gout symptoms can develop when there is excess uric acid in the body. Monosodium urate crystals that form in the joints due to excess uric acid cause gout symptoms.

Ankylosing Spondylitis is a type of arthritis thatis primarily characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints and ligaments of the spine, causing pain and stiffness in the spine. Abnormal posture may be a consequence. Other joints may also be involved including hips, knees, ankles, neck, or shoulders.

The most popular misconception about arthritis is that it is an old person’s disease. In reality, arthritis affects people of all ages. The course of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA, in children is usually different than is the course of arthritis in adults. Children experience different symptoms and generally have a more favorable prognosis.

In lupus, the immune system of the body attacks its own cells and tissues. The joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, heart, nervous system, and other organs of the body may be affected. There are 5 types of lupus – a disease that affects 10 times more women than men.

Fibromyalgia is an arthritis-related syndrome that can be difficult to diagnose. Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic condition characterized by body aches, widespread pain, sleep problems, extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms, in combination with tenderness of specific areas (muscles and tender points) on the body.

Doctors play an essential role in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis. Good communication between a doctor and patient is essential. It is important to know what to expect from your doctor and what your doctor expects from you. It is your doctor’s job to assess your symptoms, gain more information from your medical history and a current physical examination, and order diagnostic tests, and put together a treatment plan. It is your job to provide your doctor with as much pertinent information as possible. The goal is mutual – to improve your health.

There are two important points to remember about treatment of arthritis. Patients vary in their response to medications or other arthritis treatments. What works for one person may not work for another. In addition, to find the safest and most effective treatment or combination of treatments, you will have to weigh the benefits versus the risks, as some treatments have some adverse effects.