Arthritis literally means joint inflammation. Although joint inflammation describes a symptom or sign rather than a specific diagnosis, the term “arthritis” is often used to refer to any disorder that affects the joints. These disorders fall within the broader category of rheumatic diseases.
While the most common form of arthritis - osteoarthritis - is most prevalent in people over 60, arthritis in its various forms can start as early as infancy. The common thread among these 100-plus conditions is that they all affect the musculoskeletal system and specifically the joints - where two or more bones meet. Arthritis-related joint problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joint cartilage and surrounding structures.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system instead attacks the body’s own tissues, specifically the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain in the joints and inflammation that’s systemic - meaning it can occur throughout the body.
This chronic disease affects some 27 million Americans. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage - the part of a joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement. As cartilage deteriorates, bones begin to rub against one another. This can cause stiffness and pain that make it difficult for you to use that joint.
Scleroderma is a type of autoimmune disorder, a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys body tissue.
Osteoporosis, which literally means "porous bone," is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As the bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Sjögren’s is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Today, as many as four million Americans are living with this disease.
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