It is a rather common misconception that arthritis is “a medical issue for old people.” The first part of the fallacy is that arthritis only affects the elderly. This is refuted when we look at the second misunderstanding, which is that arthritis is only one medical condition. On the contrary, there are actually many different types of arthritis.
It is estimated that there are over 100 different arthritic conditions that an individual can develop. Sure, seniors can certainly have arthritis, but so too can younger individuals afflicted with conditions like gout or rheumatoid arthritis. The common theme between all the arthritic conditions, though, is that the patient experiences pain and/or stiffness in joints, often caused by inflammation.
The most common types of arthritis that affect feet and ankles are:
- Osteoarthritis – This is the “wear and tear” variety that is most often associated with the word “arthritis.” The reason for the frequent association is that osteoarthritis is simply the most common form that patients experience. It can happen at younger ages but is more likely to be seen in older individuals.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – Whereas osteoarthritis can be thought of as simply a matter of the body wearing down over time, RA is a more aggressive condition. In this form of arthritis, the body’s autoimmune system basically attacks joint linings. At this time, there is no cure for RA, so treatment is centered on relieving symptoms and managing the condition.
- Gout – This particular form of arthritis develops as a result of the body’s process of breaking down food products. With gout, uric acid (a byproduct of the process) builds up in the system and ultimately settles into joints, where it crystallizes and causes painful periodic flares.