Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is frequently called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. Although it can be brought on suddenly by an injury, its onset is generally gradual. Aging brings on a breakdown in cartilage, and pain becomes progressively more severe, although it can be relieved with rest. Dull, throbbing nighttime pain is characteristic, and it may be accompanied by muscle weakness or deterioration. Gait patterns (normal walking) may become erratic. Osteoarthritis is a particular problem for the feet when people are overweight, simply because there are so many joints in each foot; the additional weight contributes to the deterioration of cartilage and the development of bone spurs.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a major crippling disorder and perhaps the most serious form of arthritis. It is a complex, chronic inflammatory system of disease, often affecting more than a dozen smaller joints during the course of the disease, frequently in a symmetrical pattern — both ankles, or the index fingers of both hands, for example. It is often accompanied by constitutional signs and symptoms — lengthy morning stiffness, fatigue, and weight loss — and it may affect various systems of the body, such as the eyes, lungs, heart, and nervous system. Women are three to four times more likely than men to suffer from RA, indicating a linkage to heredity. RA has a much more acute onset than osteoarthritis. It is characterized by alternating periods of remission — during which symptoms disappear — and exacerbation, marked by the return of inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Serious joint deformity and loss of motion frequently result from acute rheumatoid arthritis. However, the disease system has been known to be active for months or years, then to abate, sometimes permanently. Gout (gouty arthritis) is a condition caused by a buildup of the salts of uric acid — a normal byproduct of the diet — in the joints. A single big toe joint is commonly the locus, possibly because it is subject to so much pressure in walking. Attacks of gouty arthritis are extremely painful, perhaps more so than any other form of arthritis. Men are much more likely to be afflicted than premenopausal women, an indication that heredity may play a role. While a rich diet that contains red meat, rich sauces, and brandy is popularly associated with gout, there are other protein compounds in such foods as lentils and beans which may also play a role.