What are the Different Types of Arthritis?

arthritis types

When you think of arthritis, who comes to mind? Probably the elderly or even baby boomers, right? Well, think again because different arthritis types are effecting more and more young people. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains that one in four (54 million) U.S. adults have arthritis. And more than half of those are between 18-64 years of age. That means that nearly a quarter (23%) of adults in this country have arthritis. And nearly 60% of those are of working age. Furthermore, various types of arthritis cost $81 billion in direct medical costs each year. Of course, the arthritis types we are typically most familiar with are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Thinking in those terms, it seems odd that so many people would be effected. But the fact is, arthritis extends much farther than the mainstream types we know well. Did you know, for example, that fibromyalgia, gout, and lupus are all considered types of arthritis?

Fibromyalgia: Arthritis Type or Related Condition?

Sometimes it depends on what kind of medical practitioner you’re talking to, but many of them feel that fibromyalgia falls into the category of arthritis. The CDC and Arthritis Foundation, for example, explain that fibro is a kind of arthritis. While the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, on the other hand, considers fibromyalgia an arthritis-related condition. To complicate matters even further, it’s entirely possible to have fibromyalgia and arthritis, typically rheumatoid. In fact, the CDC adds that if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you are more likely to develop fibromyalgia as well, with estimates as high as 20-30%. It’s important to understand that fibro is not a single disease. Rather, as the Arthritis Foundation poetically states, it’s a “constellation of symptoms.” As with common forms of arthritis, fibro causes debilitating and life-changing pain, and in this case it is characteristically widespread. Whether fibromyalgia is a type of arthritis or not, it is without a doubt a related condition.

Gout: Inflammatory Arthritis

Although the strange name implies something one might find on the inside of a toilet, gout is an obvious kind of arthritis. Unlike fibromyalgia that includes widespread pain or the body-wide inflammation that comes from rheumatoid arthritis, the pain from gout is localized in the joints. In fact, it usually effects the big toe, but can effect other joints as well. Similar to a fibromyalgia flare, a gout flare can mean excruciating pain. Indeed, you may go to bed feeling completely normal but wake up in agony. Some people produce an excess of uric acid that builds up in the blood. Gout is the formation of crystals that build up in the joints from the excess uric acid, causing very painful joint inflammation. It effects only about 4% of the population and is more likely to show up in men than women.

Lupus: Autoimmune Inflammatory Disease

Arthritis in general is caused by either wear and tear on the joints, usually as one ages, or by inflammation. Lupus falls into that category of inflammation. Sadly, it is also an autoimmune disease which means the immune system essentially turns against itself. Lupus is so similar to rheumatoid arthritis that both are sometimes mistaken for the other. With lupus, the inflammation effects more than the joints, however. It can also attack other tissues, organs, and more, including blood, kidneys, skin, and even the brain. Like fibromyalgia, lupus is often characterized by a hodge-podge of symptoms that can make it difficult to diagnose. Indeed, fibromyalgia is considered by many in the healthcare system to be an autoimmune disease. Lupus, fibro, and rheumatoid arthritis can look like each other. Another complication in diagnosis is that a patient can have lupus and fibromyalgia, as well as rheumatoid arthritis, all of which are exceptionally painful conditions.

We have only touched on a tiny handful of arthritis types or related conditions. There are actually “more than 100 different forms of arthritis and related conditions,” says the Arthritis Foundation. And many of those have no known causes or cures. Typically, they can only be managed. But early diagnosis is key to effective treatments. With many kinds of arthritis, the longer you go without treating your symptoms, the more irreparable damage is caused. So it is important to seek diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible. The Mayo Clinic recommends a variety of therapies, self-care options, medications, and even surgical procedures and medical specialists. Do you have any of the conditions listed here? Were you surprised to discover that these are considered forms of arthritis? At the outset, we learned that various arthritis types are effecting more and more younger people. Are you one of those? Tell us your story and whether you have found effective treatment for managing your symptoms.