The term "arthritis" encompasses more than 100 diseases and conditions that affect joints, the surrounding tissues and other connective tissues. Arthritis can cause mild to severe pain in the joints, as well as joint tenderness and swelling. More than 50 million Americans have some type of arthritis or related condition.
The various forms of arthritis and related conditions can affect anyone, no matter what your race, gender or age. However, it is especially important for women to be educated about these diseases since they affect women at a much higher rate than men. Sixty percent of all people who have arthritis are female, and several of the more common forms are more prevalent in women.
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease or OA, is the most common form of arthritis. Of the nearly 27 million Americans who have osteoarthritis approximately 16 million are women. Women usually develop OA after age 40. It causes damage to cartilage and bones, causing joint pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function. Learn more about OA.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. It is associated with generalized muscular pain and fatigue, loss of sleep, stiffness and sometimes depression and/or anxiety. Fibromyalgia is a form of soft tissue or muscular rheumatism, which means no joint deformity occurs. An estimated 3.7 million Americans have fibromyalgia; the figure may actually be higher since some of its symptoms may be found in other conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome (which is also more common in women). Learn more about fibromyalgia.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) usually strikes women between the ages of 25 to 50, but can occur in children. RA is a systemic disease that can affect the entire body. An abnormality in the body's immune system causes it to work improperly, leading to inflammation in the lining of the joints and other internal organs. Chronic inflammation can lead to deterioration, pain and limited movement. Approximately 1.5 million American adults have RA, with women outnumbering men 2.5-to-1. Learn more about RA. Learn about how to live with RA from the editors of Arthritis Today.
Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) is an inflammatory disease that may affect the joints, skin, kidneys and other parts of the body. Almost 240,000 Americans -- 90 percent of whom are women -- have this arthritis-related condition. It usually affects women of childbearing age and is more common among African American women than Caucasian women. Some studies indicate that it may also be more common among Asian and Latino populations. Learn more about lupus.
Osteoporosis is a disease whose name literally means "bone that is porous." It causes bones to lose mass and become brittle, which can lead to rounded shoulders, loss of height and painful fractures. It affects approximately 28 million Americans; four of every five people affected are women. Postmenopausal women and those with small or then frame, a family history of osteoporosis and habits such as smoking and drinking are at higher risk for osteoporosis. People who have inflammatory arthritis (such as RA) and who take glucocorticoid medications also have an increased risk of developing the disease. Learn more about osteoporosis.
Many other arthritis-related conditions and connective tissue disorders also affect more women than men. Raynaud's phenomenon, scleroderma, Sjögren's syndrome and polymyalgia rheumatica are just a few conditions that may not be as prevalent as others described in this section, but are still health problems that should be treated in conjunction with an experienced health-care team. Visit the Disease Center to learn about other forms of arthritis.
From the Editors of Arthritis Today
RA Rate Rising in Women
Researchers puzzle over current trends in RA. Women are experiencing many more cases of the disease than men.
Learn more about how doctors diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.