Different autoimmune conditions classified as arthritis

How the immune system affects arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease. Essentially, something triggers the immune system to react against the body's own tissues, causing it to produce abnormal antibodies (autoantibodies) that attack the tissues. In a normal situation, inflammation occurs as part of the healing process and subsides when healing is complete. In autoimmune rheumatic diseases the inflammation can be chronic, resulting in damage to the cartilage within the affected joint and the connective tissue in and around the joints and elsewhere in the body. Muscles can also become inflamed, as can the sac around the heart (pericarditis), the membrane that covers the lungs (pleurisy), the blood vessels (vasculitis) and the brain. The type and severity of arthritic symptoms depends on which organs are affected.

Some common types of inflammatory arthritis include rheumatic arthritis (RA), gout, infectious arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, ankylosing spondylitis, and Lyme disease.

Gout

Although there is no cure for gout, it can be treated to prevent serve attacks and long term joint damage.

Gout is a painful disease characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling in some joints. It is brought on by uric acid crystals that collect in the joints, specifically the big toes, ankles, knees, elbows, hands and wrists.

Uric acid forms when the body breaks down cells and proteins. Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood and passes through the kidney into the urine. However, people with gout either make too much uric acid (hyperuricemia) or do not excrete enough in their urine, so the left over uric acid crystals collect in the joints and tissues, triggering inflammation. Excessive alcohol intake, hypertension, kidney disease and some drugs can all lead to the onset of gout.

Although there is no cure for gout, it can be treated to prevent severe attacks and long term joint damage. Medications are the main form of treatment and include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, aspirin-like medications and Colchicine.

Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and spinal joints. It is characterized by almost constant stiffness and lower back pain and loss of spinal mobility, and is typically diagnosed during young adulthood. As time goes on the vertebrae can fuse, becoming rigid, and the hips and shoulders may also become inflamed and stiff.

Ankylosing spondylitis, if left untreated, can result in permanently deformed posture. Because the symptoms of AS are similar to other causes of pain in the back and spine, AS is often misdiagnosed. Treatment involves pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise, posture training and orthopedic correction. Early diagnosis is a key factor in the successful treatment of AS.

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