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We often hear the words "arthritis" and "osteoarthritis" during conversations, two terms that can be easily confused. Yet, these two conditions are very different.
It can sometimes be difficult to understand the various medical terms describing joint pain. The term “arthritis” is a generic term that groups together roughly 100 different joint diseases. The common denominator between these diseases is joint pain. Swelling, redness and loss of mobility can also be part of the overall picture.
In layman’s terms, many people use the term “arthritis” in reference to two diseases in particular: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Yet, these are different disorders. Other diseases are part of the broad category of arthritic disorders, including psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and Paget’s disease.
Who hasn’t heard someone say “I have arthritis” when that person seems quite healthy? Osteoarthritis is often closely linked to aging. It is the result of a gradual deterioration of the joints due to various factors, including age, repetitive joint movement, a past injury or obesity.
People who suffer from osteoarthritis are often bothered by joint pain or stiffness. Deformity of the affected joint can sometimes be observed.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the articular cartilage in the joint (smooth, strong and elastic tissue that covers the extremity of bones which form the joint, acting as a shock absorber). Individuals will experience damage to some of their joints in the course of their lifetime.
In the case of osteoarthritis, cartilage is damaged and slowly wears away; the bare bone is then exposed to friction, which over time, contributes to damage and causes pain, discomfort and stiffness. Several joints may be affected by osteoarthritis, including those of the hands, spinal column, hips and knees.
Osteoarthritis is a common health problem in people over the age of 60; but it is not a serious problem. However, it may have a significant impact on quality of life.
It is always necessary to be diagnosed by a doctor. However, you may suffer from osteoarthritis if you are in the following categories:
Aside from osteoarthritis, it can be said that most other types of arthritis have one common characteristic: joint inflammation. The inflammation process may be due to several different factors such as infection, biochemical imbalance or genetic defect. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation is due to an immune system imbalance which, to a certain extent, attacks one or several joints.
It isn’t unusual for an individual suffering from a different type of arthritis than osteoarthritis to have other symptoms than just the affected joints, such as fatigue, fever, general malaise, loss of appetite, etc. Sometimes, nerves and organs (especially the heart or lungs) may be affected.
Arthritis may also accompany another type of disease, for example, psoriatic arthritis affects certain individuals who have psoriasis (a skin disease).
If you suffer from joint pain, here are a few tips:
Don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information on the different types of arthritis, joint pain or available treatments.
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