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Types of Arthritis

The term "arthritis" refers to a group of more than 100 different diseases and conditions that affect a person's joints, tissues surrounding the joints, and other connective tissues throughout the body.

More than 1 million adults in South Carolina have some form of arthritis. Children also get arthritis; Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is the most common form seen in children.

Arthritis is serious and can affect a person's daily activities, interfere with their ability to work and reduce their quality of life. It can also lead to costly joint replacement surgeries.

Common symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in or around the joints. Some conditions also involve the immune system or internal organs of the body.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis in the U.S., affecting 27 million Americans. The condition occurs in many people in their prime years, especially those 45 years of age and older.

Osteoarthritis affects the joints of the body — the hips, knees, and hands and sometimes, the shoulders and feet. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints breaks down or wears away, causing the bones to rub together. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, difficulty moving and performing everyday activities, and in some cases loss of use of the joint.

You can help protect yourself from osteoarthritis by staying at a healthy weight, taking care to avoid injuries, and regularly engaging in moderate physical activity.

For more information on OA, see the Osteoarthritis webpage published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also see the Osteoarthritis webpage published by the Arthritis Foundation.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another type of arthritis. It is diagnosed more often in women than men. In RA, the body's own immune system attacks cartilage, bone, and sometimes, internal organs, such as the heart or lungs. The result is ongoing (chronic) swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the joint lining. The condition may spread to other joint tissues, and may eventually erode bone and cartilage, cause joint deformities, and limit a person's movement. Because rheumatoid arthritis can affect the lungs and heart, it can increase risk of death due to respiratory or infectious diseases.

For more information about RA, see the Rheumatoid Arthritis webpage published by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Also see the RA webpage published by the Arthritis Foundation.


Fibromyalgia is another relatively common arthritis-related condition. It also occurs (or is diagnosed) more often in women.
Fibromyalgia can cause a number of signs and symptoms, especially long-lasting, widespread pain in the muscles and the tissues connected to the muscles. Medical researchers are not yet certain of the underlying cause of Fibromyalgia.

Other common symptoms include frequent or ongoing physical and mental fatigue, headaches, depression, stomach irritation (irritable bowel syndrome) and sleep disorders.

For more information, see the Fibromyalgia webpage published by the Arthritis Foundation.


Gout is another relatively common type of arthritis. Diagnosed more often in men, gout causes sudden, severe pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in a joint - especially in lower extremity joints like the big toe.

Gout is caused by an accumulation of a chemical called uric acid in the blood. The uric acid deposits form crystals in joints and tissues, and this causes irritation and swelling (inflammation). Certain foods high in chemicals called purines — found in organ meats, seafood, and alcohol — can trigger a gout attack.

For more information, see the Gout webpage published by the Arthritis Foundation.


Lupus is an autoimmune disease. In lupus, the immune system turns against the body it is designed to protect, for unknown reasons. Lupus can affect nearly every organ system in the body, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and central nervous system.

For more information, see the web pages of the Lupus Foundation of America.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS)

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, is an example of a form of arthritis that is rare but serious. It is a condition that involves a disturbance in the network of nerves found alongside the spinal cord. These nerves (called the sympathetic nervous system) control the opening and closing of blood vessels and certain other bodily functions.

RSDS primarily affects the hands and feet. Although the cause is unknown, it is possible that RSDS may sometimes be triggered by an injury to nerves, bones, joints, muscles, tendons or ligaments. Other triggers may include: infections, cancer, diabetes, thyroid disorders, lung disease, heart attack, stroke, and the use of certain medications.

For more information, see the RSDS web pages published by the Arthritis Foundation and the RSDS webpage published by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stoke. Also see the web pages of the RSDS Association.

Other Types of Arthritis

Other types of arthritis include: Bursitis, Tendonitis, and arthritis associated with infectious disease (such as Lyme Disease).
View a complete list of the different types of arthritis and related diseases.

Take Control

If you are worried that you may have a type of arthritis, take these steps to gain greater control over your health:

  • First, talk to your doctor.
  • Second, decide to learn more about arthritis and take control of your health by participating in one of the ongoing self-management and physical activity classes sponsored by DHEC and partner organizations like the Arthritis Foundation, the Lt. Governor's Office on Aging, and others.
  • Find an arthritis class in your community. The classes will complement your medical plan and help you feel better and stay active.