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The word "Arthritis" is a blend of the Greek words "arthron," for joint, and "itis," for inflammation. In other words, arthritis literally means "joint inflammation."   Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States affecting  46 million Americans.  More than 100 diseases and conditions are encompassed under the term "arthritis" ---  that affect joints and connective tissue, the most common forms,  being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, fibromyalgia, and lupus.


Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage and may affect any joint in your body, including those in your fingers, hips, knees, lower back and feet.  Initially osteoarthritis may strike only one joint. But if your fingers are affected, multiple hand joints may become arthritic.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is among the most debilitating of all forms, causing joints to ache and throb and eventually become deformed.  Sometimes these symptoms make even the simplest activities — such as opening a jar or taking a walk — difficult to manage.  The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it's believed to be the body's immune system attacking the tissue that lines your joints (synovium).  Rheumatoid arthritis is two to three times more common in women than in men and generally strikes between the ages of 20 and 50. But rheumatoid arthritis can also affect young children and adults older than age 50.


You wake up in the middle of the night, and your big toe feels as if it's on fire. It's hot, swollen and so tender that even the weight of a blanket on it seems intolerable. These problems could indicate an acute attack of gout or gouty arthritis a form of arthritis that's characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness and tenderness in joints.
Gout is a complex disorder that can affect anyone. Men are more likely to get gout than women are, but women become increasingly susceptible to gout after menopause.


You hurt all over, and you frequently feel exhausted. Even after numerous tests, your doctor can't find anything specifically wrong with you. If this sounds familiar, you may have fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points places on your body where slight pressure causes pain. Fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. Previously, fibromyalgia was known by other names such as fibrositis, chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism and tension myalgias.


Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can target your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs. The great majority of people affected are women. For reasons that aren't clear, lupus develops when the immune system attacks your body's own tissues and organs.

Three main types of lupus exist systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), discoid lupus erythematosus and drug-induced lupus. Of these, SLE is the most common and serious form of the disease, frequently causing swollen, painful joints, skin rash, extreme fatigue and kidney damage. In rare cases, mothers can pass antibodies to their babies during childbirth (neonatal lupus erythematosus), though the mothers themselves usually show no signs of lupus.


Last modified on: 1/24/2008 12:38 AM