Osteoarthritis is Australia’s most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis typically affects the body’s weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees and ankles, however it can also be present in the hands and spine (AIHW 2007a).
Osteoarthritis usually occurs when the cartilage covering the ends of bones in a joint breaks down. As the cartilage wears away, the bones begin to rub against each other. This rubbing can also affect the shape of the joint and prevent it from functioning smoothly.
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain, swelling and joint stiffness. Bony outgrowths or ‘spurs’ are also common in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis progresses slowly and joints can take many years to fail. The condition is more common in females than males.
Osteoarthritis is more common in later life and it is often connected with being overweight or obese (AIHW 2007a). In Australia, over 97% of knee and hip replacements that are connected to arthritis are due to osteoarthritis (AIHW 2007a).
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system inappropriately attacks its own tissues. Unlike many other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is not confined to just the joints; it can also affect many other body parts and organs.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain and swelling and is the severest form of arthritis (AIHW 2010). People with rheumatoid arthritis usually experiences periodic ‘flares’ and ‘remissions’. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, although it is especially common between the ages of 30 and 65 years.
Juvenile arthritis is the term used to describe all types of arthritis that affect people who are younger than 16 years. Juvenile arthritis is a common and serious childhood condition that affects one in every 1000 Australian children (Arthritis Australia 2009a).
More girls than boys experience juvenile arthritis and it is unusual for more than one child in a family to be affected by it. Some occurrences of juvenile arthritis can last for months, while others can last indefinitely.
Paediatric rheumatologists are the doctors who specialise in treating juvenile arthritis. While a cure is not yet available, there are many successful ways of treating and managing the condition.
Fibromyalgia is an umbrella term that is used to describe a group of symptoms that include generalised pain and muscle stiffness. Fibromyalgia symptoms can affect many different parts of the body (Arthritis Australia 2009b).
Generally, fibromyalgia doesn’t cause inflammation. Nor does it cause damage to painful areas. The most common symptoms of this condition are:
The good news about Fibromyalgia is that it doesn’t cause long term damage to the muscles or joints. With effective management and a little help, this condition can be managed.
Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that affects the joints. Typically it causes inflammation in the joints which causes them to become stiff, swollen and painful (Arthritis Australia 2007).
Psoriatic arthritis commonly occurs in people who have a skin condition called psoriasis; however only one or two people out of every 10 who have psoriasis actually have psoriatic arthritis as well.
Psoriatic arthritis can affect any body joint and it’s symptoms differ from person to person. The condition can develop quickly and have severe symptoms, or it can come on slowly with mild symptoms. Psoriatic arthritis symptoms include:
Gout is a painful and common condition in which small crystals form in and around the joints. These crystals are made of uric acid (a normal bodily waste product) which is usually excreted through the kidneys and into urine. For people with gout, this normal process doesn’t happen quickly enough and uric acid levels build up to form crystals (Arthritis Australia 2007b). Anyone can get gout, however it is rare in women who have not reached menopause and skin.
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