Rheumatoid arthritis. This inflammatory disease of the immune system targets first the synovium, or lining of the joint, resulting in pain, stiffness, swelling, joint damage, and loss of function of the joints. Inflammation most often affects joints of the hands and feet and tends to be symmetrical (occurring equally on both sides of the body). This symmetry helps distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from other forms of the disease. About 0.6 percent of the population has rheumatoid arthritis.
Juvenile arthritis. This disease is the most common form of arthritis in childhood, causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function of the joints. This condition can be associated with rashes or fevers and could affect various parts of the body. Prevalence statistics for juvenile arthritis vary greatly.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain throughout the tissues that support and move the bones and joints. Pain, stiffness, and localized tender points occur in the muscles and tendons, particularly those of the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. Patients also could experience fatigue and sleep disturbances.
Systemic lupus erythematosus. Systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as lupus or SLE) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system harms the body’s own healthy cells and tissues. This can result in inflammation of and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.
Scleroderma. Also known as systemic sclerosis, scleroderma means literally “hard skin.” The disease affects the skin, blood vessels, and joints. It may also affect internal organs, such as the lungs and kidneys. In scleroderma, there is an abnormal and excessive production of collagen (a fiber-like protein) in the skin and internal organs.
Spondyloarthropathies. This group of rheumatic diseases principally affects the spine. One common form—ankylosing spondylitis—also may affect the hips, shoulders, and knees. The tendons and ligaments around the bones and joints become inflamed, resulting in pain and stiffness. Ankylosing spondylitis tends to affect people in late adolescence or early adulthood. Reactive arthritis is another spondyloarthropathy. It develops after an infection involving the lower urinary tract, bowel, or other organ. It is commonly associated with eye problems, skin rashes, and mouth sores.
Infectious arthritis. This is a general term used to describe forms of arthritis that are caused by infectious agents, such as bacteria or viruses. Parvovirus arthritis and gonococcal arthritis are examples of infectious arthritis. Arthritis symptoms also can occur in Lyme disease, which is caused by a bacterial infection following the bite of certain ticks. In those cases of arthritis caused by bacteria, early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics are crucial to removing the infection and minimizing damage to the joints.
Gout. This type of arthritis results from deposits of needle-like crystals of uric acid in the joints. Gout is a painful and potentially disabling form of arthritis that has been around since ancient times. The first symptoms usually are intense episodes of painful swelling in single joints, most often in the feet, especially the big toe. The swollen site might be red and warm. Treatments are available to control most cases of gout and treatment plans should be tailored for each individual.
Polymyalgia rheumatica. Because this disease involves tendons, muscles, ligaments, and tissues around the joint, symptoms often include pain, aching, and morning stiffness in the shoulders, hips, neck, and lower back. It is sometimes the first sign of giant cell arteritis, a disease of the arteries characterized by headaches, inflammation, weakness, weight loss, and fever.
Polymyositis. This rheumatic disease causes inflammation and weakness in the muscles. The disease may affect the whole body and cause disability.
Psoriatic arthritis. This form of arthritis occurs in some patients with psoriasis, a scaling skin disorder. Psoriatic arthritis often affects the joints at the ends of the fingers and toes and is accompanied by changes in the fingernails and toenails. Back pain may occur if the spine is involved.