Arthritis—the real story

  • Many people believe arthritis is simply the inevitable aches and pains of getting old. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Different types of the disease affect people very differently; effects range from mild to deadly, inconvenient to totally disabling, uncomfortable to excruciating.
  • The over 100 different types of arthritis fall into two main groups:
    • Osteoarthritis—is caused by a breakdown of cartilage in joints causing bones to rub together resulting in pain, stiffness and eventual loss of use. There are some forms of osteoarthritis that appear to be genetically driven, and others that are a result of injury, overuse or advanced age.
    • Inflammatory arthritis—is a general term used to describe autoimmune forms of the disease. In inflammatory arthritis, the body's own immune system attacks healthy joints and tissues, causing inflammation and joint damage. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. Other forms include ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and many others.
  • Arthritis and related conditions can lead to death. Two people per 100,000 die from arthritis, and a significant number more die from co-morbidities like heart attack/stroke, lymphomas and certain other types of cancer as a direct result of having arthritis.
  • We do not have an accurate count of people who die as a result of their arthritis. This is because the immediate cause of death is what is recorded, and not co-morbidities. In other words, a person can have rheumatoid arthritis for 15 years, and then develop lymphoma as a result of their arthritis. If that person were to die of lymphoma, the cause of death would be recorded as cancer, not arthritis.
  • Different types of arthritis can affect not only joints, but also muscles, bones, tendons, and almost every organ. Heart, lungs, eyes, and skin are often affected by various forms of arthritis.