Arthritis is, sadly, a very common and very painful condition. It can make working and even basic living extremely difficult. In order for treatment to prove effective in combating the symptoms and to allow the sufferer to live as normal a life as possible, it is essential to correctly diagnose which type of arthritis the patient has. The two most common types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, are very different in character and require completely different methods of diagnosis, as well as very different methods of treatment.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects as many as one in every hundred people. It is caused by a malfunction in the body's defence systems and nobody has yet been able to discover why this happens. The genes that are responsible for the problem, have been identified - but the exact means by which the trouble occurs remains unknown. The disease is not hereditary, no increased risk has been found if you have a sufferer in your immediate family. In rheumatoid arthritis extra blood flow causes joints to become swollen and painful and in extreme cases can even permanently damage the joint. It is essential to seek medical help to reduce inflammation, as the damage to joints is permanent and irreversible.
Osteoarthritis is a completely different condition, which affects the bones. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, there appears to be no genetic factor involved with osteoarthritis, although there are several factors that increase the risk of the condition developing. Osteoarthritis is rare in young people, suggesting that in certain cases it is wear on the bones that causes the disease to develop. Overweight people are far more susceptible to the condition, especially with the knee joints, which suggests that excess strain put on a moving joint area will be a major factor in bringing on the condition. Stiff joints are the main symptom of osteoarthritis.
Although these two forms of arthritis account for the vast majority of sufferers, there are in fact over two hundred distinct types, These types affect all sections of the population, young and old alike. Some forms of the condition, such as ankylosing spondylitis, affect more men than women - which is in direct contrast to the two major types, where far more women are affected. Systemic lupus erythematosus, another very uncommon form of arthritis, is found in nine times the number of women than it is in men. One of the most common forms of arthritis, which is usually thought of as a completely different condition, is gout. This extremely painful problem is caused by uric acid and is at least controllable with correct treatment. Sometimes arthritis can be a purely reactive condition brought on by another kind of medical condition. In this case, the symptoms will usually disappear of their own accord, always provided that no permanent damage has occurred.
As arthritis comes in so many diverse forms, it is essential to get a correct diagnosis before attempting to treat the condition. The first port of call is usually the general practitioner, who will often be able to do some basic tests immediately. Usually, however, the patient will need to be sent to a local hospital for blood testing and X rays. In larger medical centres more advanced tests may be available and specialists in the condition may be on hand to advise. Once a correct diagnosis has been completed, there is much that modern medicine can do to relieve the pain of the condition and allow the sufferer to live a normal life, even if the arthritis cannot actually be cured permanently.