What You Need To Know About The Most Common Types Of Arthritis

Megan Ray  |  September 1, 2015

Many people believe that arthritis is a single condition. However, it's important to know that it is a general term used to describe multiple joint conditions that have different causes and side effects. According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are more than 100 types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout and fibromyalgia. 

The majority of those impacted by a form of arthritis are over 65 years old and account for almost half of the 52.5 million diagnosed with any type of arthritis, explained the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each form of arthritis has unique causes, frequently impacted areas and symptoms. It's essential that seniors understand the most prevalent forms of the condition, as this will help them know when to seek assistance from their doctors and how to avoid potential risk factors. Here are three of the most common types of arthritis that older adults should keep their eyes out for:

1. Osteoarthritis
The Arthritis Foundation noted that osteoarthritis is the form of the disease that impacts seniors most frequently. Of the 52.5 million people diagnosed with arthritis, the source pointed out that around 27 million have osteoarthritis, also referred to as degenerative joint disease. This form of arthritis generally impacts people over the age of 40, with the majority being 65 years or older. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage inside the joints disintegrates - usually due to old age - and can affect the neck, hands, lower back, knees and hips. In addition to old age, factors like being overweight, injury and overuse of joints frequently cause osteoarthritis, according to Everyday Health. 

2. Rheumatoid arthritis 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the second-most common type of the disease, impacting approximately 1.5 million people, explained the Arthritis Foundation. Unlike osteoarthritis, the exact cause of RA is not entirely understood by doctors. However, there is research that shows genes and hormones are primarily responsible for the onset of the condition. Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs when the immune system goes awry and attacks the lining of the joints. The source noted that instead of protecting the body from viruses and bacteria, the immune system becomes overactive and mistakenly causes damage to healthy joints. This results in severe, chronic inflammation around the joints as well as low-grade inflammation throughout the entire body. 

This type of arthritis usually affects people 50 or older, but can affect people of all ages, including children. According to Rheumatology.org, small joints, including the hands, wrists and fingers, are generally affected by RA. 

3. Psoriatic arthritis 
Many people who experience psoriasis - a skin condition that causes an itchy, scaly rash - are diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA). In fact, the Arthritis Foundation noted that an estimated 30 percent of the 7.5 million patients with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis. Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, this type of arthritis is also a form of autoimmune arthritis, and is the result of the immune system attacking healthy tissues and joints. According to the Mayo Clinic, PsA includes five forms: symmetric, asymmetric, distal, spondylitis and arthritis mutilans. Symmetric psoriatic arthritis is the most common type, impacting 50 percent of PsA patients, and is similar to RA, impacting both sides of the body at the same time. 

Symmetric and asymmetric PsA can affect any part of the body. Meanwhile, distal PsA generally impacts the toes and fingernails, and spondylitis causes stiffness and pain in the neck and spine, explained the Mayo Clinic. Arthritis mutilans is a rare form of the disease and results in deformities in small joints and even has the potential to destroy them. 

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