What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is not a single disease that affects all individuals in the same manner, but rather, arthritis consists of over 100 distinct conditions. Persons aged 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of Alabama's population and the impact of arthritis is expected to increase dramatically by the year 2020 as the "baby boomers" age. A partial list of these conditions is provided below.

If the condition you are interested in is not listed here, try the newly updated Disease Center on the Arthritis Foundation, Alabama Chapter Website, which contains information on a variety of arthritis-related conditions.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis (ANK-ki-low-sing spon-di-LIE-tis) is a chronic, or long-lasting, disease that primarily affects the spine and may lead to stiffness of the back. The joints and ligaments that normally permit the back to move become inflamed. The joints and bones may grow (fuse) together. For further information, visit Spondylitis Association of America.

Childhood Arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA, is a form of arthritis that affects 70,000 to 100,000 children in the U.S.A., and is the most prevalent form of arthritis in children. It is often a mild condition that causes few problems, but can produce complications in severe cases. For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation.


Fibromyalgia (fye-bro-my-AL-gee-ah) is a common form of generalized muscular pain and fatigue. The name "fibromyalgia" means pain in the muscles and fibrous connective tissues (ligaments and tendons). This condition is referred to as a "syndrome" because it's a set of signs and symptoms that occur together. Fibromyalgia is especially confusing and often misunderstood because symptoms are common in other conditions. It is a form of soft-tissue or muscular rheumatism rather than arthritis of a joint. For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation, NIAMS, and Fibromyalgia Network.


Gout causes sudden, severe attacks of pain and tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling in some joints. Usually affects one joint at a time - often the big toe. For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation and NIAMS.

Infectious Arthritis

Unlike other types of arthritis, infectious arthritis is usually not a long-term illness. Treated promptly and properly, it is generally a curable form of arthritis. However, without proper treatment, infectious arthritis can result in serious damage to the joints involved, and may spread to other parts of the body. That's why it is important to recognize the symptoms of infectious arthritis and get prompt treatment.


Lupus is a chronic rheumatic disease which affects joints, muscles and other parts of the body. Lupus involves inflammation (the immune system's response to kill foreign agents, virus, bacteria). Lupus involves chronic inflammation that can affect many parts of the body including the heart, lungs, skin, joints and kidneys. For further information, visit Lupus Foundation of America.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. It may cause a number of medical conditions, including arthritis, nerve or heart problems. Early detection can prevent more serious disease. For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation.


Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is one of the oldest and most common types of arthritis. It is characterized by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage. Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of bones. Cartilage breakdown causes bones to rub against each other, causing pain and loss of movement. For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis causes pain and swelling in some joints and scaly skin patches on some areas of the body. It is related to the skin condition psoriasis. For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation.

Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud's is a condition in which poor blood flow results in discomfort and skin color changes in affected parts of the body. If left untreated or uncontrolled, it can affect fingers, toes, ears, nose, nipples and knees. There is no cure, but it can be controlled in most cases. For further information, visit NIAMS and CCOHS.

Reactive Arthritis or Reiter's Syndrome

Reactive arthritis, or Reiter's Syndrome, is arthritis that produces pain, swelling, redness and heat in the joints. It is one of a family of arthritic disorders, called spondyloarthropathies, affecting the spine and commonly involving the joints of the spine and sacroiliac joints. It can also affect many other parts of the body such as arms and legs. Main characteristic features are inflammation of the joints, urinary tract, eyes and ulceration of skin and mouth. For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation and Reiter's Information and Support Group.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) involves inflammation in the lining of the joints and/or other internal organs. RA typically affects many different joints. It can be chronic, which means it lasts a long time, and can be a disease of flares (active) and remissions (little to no activity). For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation.


Scleroderma is a disease that can cause thickening, hardening, or tightening of the skin, blood vessels and internal organs. Scleroderma is chronic, which means it can last a long time. There are two types of scleroderma. Localized scleroderma mainly affects the skin. Generalized scleroderma may affect many parts of the body. For further information, visit Scleroderma Foundation.

Sjögren's Syndrome

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes dry eyes and a dry mouth. For further information, visit Arthritis Foundation and Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation.

Page last updated: February 16, 2018