Types of Arthritis

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Arthritis affects both small and large joints and the surrounding tissues. It can cause mild to severe pain in the joints, as well as joint tenderness and swelling. Women are diagnosed with arthritis at a much higher rate than men so it’s especially important for women to become familiar with the different types of arthritis and their signs and symptoms.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, representing more than 90% of all arthritis cases. OA is caused by a breakdown of cartilage in joints, which causes bones to rub together resulting in pain, stiffness and eventual loss of use.  Estimates are that 1 in 8 Canadians or 13% are affected.

Being a woman seems to amplify the age-related increase in the occurrence of OA in the hand, knee and in multiple joints. After the age of 50, the frequency of OA in these joints is significantly greater in women than in men while the frequency of hip OA increases at about the same rate with age in women and men.

Inflammatory Arthritis  
Inflammatory arthritis is a general term used to describe autoimmune forms of the disease, where the body's own immune system attacks healthy joints and tissues causing inflammation and joint damage. Inflammatory arthritis includes more than 90 different types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.  Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. 

RA affects women 2 to 3 times more often than men, striking most often between the ages of 20 and 50. However, RA can affect women of any age, from toddlers to seniors. 

RA is often devastating to a person's body if not treated properly. When moderate to severe, the disease reduces a women's life span by as much as a dozen years.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (Lupus) is the name given to a potentially fatal autoimmune disease. More than 15,000 Canadians – 90 per cent of whom are women – have this arthritis-related disease. Affecting approximately 1 in 1000 Canadian women, lupus occurs when the body's immune system begins to malfunction and attacks healthy tissue in various parts of the body, causing inflammation and damage. Tissues affected can include the skin, joints, muscles, kidneys, lungs, heart, blood cells and brain.

Lupus can strike at any age, most often in women of childbearing age between the ages of 15 and 45.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that develops in children under the age of 16 years. JIA strikes up to 1 in 250 children, making it one of the most common chronic diseases among children. Overall, JIA affects girls slightly more often than boys.