There are over 100 forms of arthritis. The more commonly known are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Almost half of all people over the age of 60 and virtually all over the age of 80 will have osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis has been called “wear and tear” or “degenerative” arthritis and there is growing understanding that it is an inflammatory arthritis. It occurs as a result of mechanical breakdown in the structures affecting the joints. This happens most often in the large weight bearing joints – the knees, hips and spine. It often occurs in the hands, but rarely in the feet or ankles apart from the big toe. Except as a result of injury or stress, osteoarthritis seldom affects the wrist, elbow, shoulder or jaw.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory illness that affects the joints and because it is “systemic” (affecting the entire body), it can affect other parts of the body as well.
Some people will have a mild form of rheumatoid arthritis. This may require only intermittent treatment for minor symptoms and may not lead to misshapened joints. 1 person in 6 affected by rheumatoid arthritis will have a more serious form that can cause painful, misshapened joints.
It is a chronic disease and may last a lifetime. Often, however, people experience periods of remission when the disease subsides. Remissions can last for short periods of time or, for several years. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but advances in scientific research mean people with rheumatoid arthritis can be assured of effective treatment, resulting in much less pain and fewer disabilities.
For general information regarding arthritis please visit Arthritis NZ