Arthritis: Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis

According to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), arthritis is the most common chronic disease in Australia. Its recognition as a national health priority is not surprising given the Arthritis Foundation of Australia estimates 3.1 million Australians, almost 17% of the population, have arthritis.

Although it is commonly associated with aging, arthritis can occur at any age. Most of over 100 known types of arthritis are chronic, with pain often described as the most common symptom.

Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints, surrounding tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It can affect virtually every joint of the body from the feet, to the knees, back, shoulders and fingers. The symptoms of arthritis vary depending on the type, and include pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints, deformity, and/or a diminished range of motion.

 

A healthy joint and a joint with osteoarthritis

Image courtesy of Primus Pharmaceuticals

The term arthritis describes a variety of arthritic conditions, with the two most common forms being Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease commonly affecting the hands, spine, knee or hip that is sometimes caused by injury or a defect in the protein that makes up cartilage. More commonly, it is related to the wear and tear of aging. This joint degeneration results in pain, deformity and a reduced range of motion. There is generally no inflammation, however, fractures become an increasing risk because osteoarthritis makes the bones brittle.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are types of inflammatory arthritis. RA is an autoimmune disorder, a ‘self-attacking-self disease, and typically affects the hands, feet, wrists, ankles and knees. Inflammation results, and the cartilage and tissues in and around the joints are damaged or destroyed. RA creates stiffness, swelling, fatigue, weight loss, fever and often crippling pain.