Bones give your body stability, and their connecting joints are what give you mobility. Different kinds of tissue hold the bones together. Cartilage protects the ends of the bone so they don't grate on one another; tendons connect the bone to muscle; and ligaments connect bone to bone. The joints are surrounded by the synovium, a sac filled with synovial fluid that protects the joints. There are six different kinds of joints, and even though they’re meant to provide a wide range of movement, they can become misaligned and damaged. Ultimately, arthritic conditions can affect even simple movements and cause a lot of pain.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It mainly affects the hands, hips, knees and spine. In this type of arthritis, the protein in the cartilage slowly breaks down. Over time, as the cartilage breaks off, the bones have nothing left to cushion them and they start to rub against each other. In some cases the knee or hip joints may become so damaged that they need to be replaced. Deterioration of the cartilage can also cause the bone to produce growths called spurs, which can cause discomfort if they come into contact with bone or nerves and can prevent movement if they’re stuck between joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and thickening of the synovium. This in turn results in damage to the bone and cartilage. Children are not immune to arthritis, and juvenile arthritis can cause swelling in the joints, which can then become misaligned and misshapen if not treated. Gout is another form of arthritis that is very painful, caused by a build-up of uric acid. Gout affects mostly the big toe, but also the hands, wrists, feet and ankles.
All types of arthritis affect the joints, and over time the wearing away of tissue can cause swelling, pain, tenderness and stiffness. Treatment can minimize the damage and ease the symptoms.