Types of Arthritis

The term ‘arthritis‘ (Latin arthros = joint, itis = inflammation) means inflammation of a joint. For ages, we have always linked arthritis to old age. Though an elderly person is more likely to get arthritis, after the years of wear and tear in the joint. However, certain people are predisposed to get arthritis at a much younger age. There are also some juvenile types of arthritis which occur exclusively in childhood. Thus, it is necessary to broaden our views about arthritis, rather than just considering it as a ‘disease of the old’.

Joint Anatomy

Picture 1: Normal Joint
(source: NIAMS Image Gallery)

A joint (Picture 1) can be considered as an interaction between two or more bones. The surface of the bones in a joint are covered by cartilage smooth movement at the joint. This is called the articular cartilage. The joint is covered by a membrane called synovium, which makes it a closed space and secretes the synovial fluid. This fluid acts like oil to lubricate the bony surfaces and reduce friction during joint movement. It also provides nutrition to the cartilage, because the cartilage is not supplied by blood.The synovial membrane is covered by the joint capsule which seperates it from the muscles surrounding the joint and prevents it from injury during muscle movement.

Picture 2: Arthritic Joint
(source: NIAMS Image Gallery)

A joint affected by arthritis (Picture 2) loses its ability to provide smooth movement between the bones. This is because of the following changes taking place gradually over a period of time

  • decrease in the amount of synovial fluid
  • wear and tear of the articular cartilage
  • thickness and stiffness of synovium
  • stiffness and of the joint capsule

These changes can occur due to several reasons like ageing, autoimmune disorders (immune system destroys our own body), genetic disorders, traumatic incident (accident, fall, or blunt injury), infection, and so on. The arthritic changes are generally permanent and cannot be reversed after a period of time. Hence, early recognition and treatment is the only way to prevent more damage.

Types of Arthritis

Based on the causes of arthritic changes, several forms of arthritis can be named. A particular type of arthritis occurs in a particular age group and in a particular joint (see table).

Arthritis Age Group Site
Osteoarthritis Elderly Knee, lower back, fingers
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Childhood Knee, hip
Septic Arthritis Childhood Knee, hip
Rheumatoid Arthritis Young adults Hip, knuckles, knee
Ankylosing Spondylitis Young adults Lower back, chest
Psoriatic Arthritis Young adults Knee
Traumatic Arthritis Any Any (commonly knee, hip, ankle)
Gout Young adults Big toe, knee

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About Dr Gauresh (61 Articles)
An orthopedic surgeon trained in JJ Group of Hospitals and Grant Medical College. I have worked in this field for the past 3 years and have significant clinical experience to guide students and patients on any topic in orthopedics.

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