Disease Information

Disease Information

Arthritis is used to describe the diseases and conditions that affect a joint or joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness which often lead to disability. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and autoimmune diseases, some of which are listed and described here.

The cause of most types of the disease is unknown. Scientists are currently studying what roles three major factors play in certain types of arthritis. These include the genetic factors you inherit from your parents, what happens to you during your life and how you live. The importance of these factors varies for every type of arthritis.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis involving the spine. It causes inflammation and pain in the back, bent posture, and at times, fusion of the vertebrae causing limited range of motion. Ankylosing spondylitis affects men three times more than women between the ages of 15 and 30.

Behҫet's Disease

Behҫet's Disease is a chronic, inflammatory disease in which symptoms largely stem from vasculitis or inflammation of the blood vessels. The symptoms may include inflammation of the eye and joints, skin lesions, and ulcers in the mouth of in the genitals. The affects of the disease are multifaceted and may result in stroke, blindness, intestinal problems, and swelling of the spinal cord. Prevalent in Asia, Japan, and the Middle East, but rare in Canada, the US and Europe. It may affect both men and women mostly in their 20s and 30s.

Childhood Arthritis

Childhood arthritis is a form of arthritis that occurs in people under the age of 16. Like many forms of arthritis it causes pain, swelling and stiffness in one or more joints. Also called juvenile arthritis, inflammation in this form of arthritis lasts longer than six weeks, and is diagnosed when no other cause of the inflammation can be found.

Crohn's Disease

Chrohn's is a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract. It causes the intestinal tissue to become inflamed, form sores, and bleed easily. Patches of inflammation are often dispersed throughout healthy tissue in the intestines. Crohn's can affect every layer of bowel tissue causing pain and significant discomfort. Crohn's is common, approximately 1 in 200 people suffer from the disease.

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH)

DISH is a form of arthritis that causes excessive bone growth along the vertebrae of the spine and may also affect other major joints such as the knee, elbow and heel of the foot. DISH, also called Forestier's Syndrome is one of the most common forms of arthritis affecting 6-12% of North Americans mostly over the age of 50.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)

EDS encompasses a group of nine hereditary disorders affecting the skin and joints, and at times organs as well. Affecting the connective tissues supporting parts of the body such as the skin and muscles, EDS affects men and women equally and occurs in all ethnic and racial groups.

Felty's Syndrome

Felty's Syndrome is a complication of rheumatoid arthritis. Three main conditions identify Felty's syndrome, the presence of RA, an enlarged spleen, and a low white blood cell count. Most common after the age of 50, Felty's Syndrome causes a general feeling of malaise and increased risk of infection due to the low white blood cell count.


Fibromyalgia is widespread pain in joints, ligaments and tendons. One of the more common forms of arthritis, it affects between 2 and 6% of the Canadian population, targeting women up to four times more than men.


Gout is caused by a build up of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is a waste produced by the body that is usually flushed from the body through the kidneys in urine. Gout occurs when the body produces too much uric acid or does not flush enough of the body. The excess becomes crystalized and forms deposits around the body causing pain and swelling in the area. Gout affects men up to four times more than women.

Infectious Arthritis

Infectious arthritis causes pain and swelling in the joints, however unlike many other forms of arthritis, the inflammation is caused by a germ such as a bacterium, fungus or a virus. Often affecting only one joint, infectious arthritis generally does not last for extended periods of time. People with arthritis are more susceptible to infectious arthritis due to the fact that germs tend to infect joint tissue that is already damaged.


Lupus is the name of a group of diseases, the most common and severe of which is called Systematic Lupus Erythematosus, often called SLE. Other forms of lupus exist, such as discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and subacute cutaneous lupus (SCLE), though less common, and less severe as they do not attack internal organs in people living with lupus, inflammation can attach a number of body systems and organs including skin, muscles and joints. In addition, the immune system can also attack the lungs, heart, kidneys, nervous system and blood vessels causing patients significant pain and discomfort.

Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

Mixed Connective Tissue Damage (MCTD) is an overlap of three diseases: a systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), scleroderma and polymyositis. Affecting people of all ages, over 80% of those living with MCTD are women.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting 1 in 10 Canadians and is caused by the breakdown of cartilage.  Bits of cartilage may eventually break off and cause pain and swelling in the joint, with later progression of the disease causing the entire breakdown of cartilage and bones rubbing together.  OA can affect any joint but is usually found in the hip, knee, hands and spine. OA affects men and women equally and is most often found in people over the age of 45.


Osteoporosis is characterized by a low bone mass and a deterioration of bone tissue. Also known as the 'silent thief', people suffering from osteoporosis often experience no symptoms of bone loss. People living with osteoporosis are at an increased risk of bone fragility and fracture, particularly in the hip, wrist and spine. While the disease can affect people of any age, osteoporosis mostly affects those over the age of 50. In fact, 1 in 4 women over the age of 50 lives with osteoporosis, compared with 1 in 8 men over the age of 50.

Paget's Disease

Paget's disease is a disease of the bone. Over one's lifetime, bone is constantly breaking down and growing back. However, for those people living with Paget's disease, the bone breaks down more quickly than normal and grows back much softer than healthy bone. This can lead to shorter bones because of the constant bending caused by the softness. Paget's disease affects men more frequently than women and rarely affects anyone under the age of 40. It can affect any bone in the body but most often affects the skull, hip, pelvis and bones in the back and legs.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia Rheumatica is a form of arthritis that affects only the muscles causing them to be stiff, tender and sore. While the inflammation causes pain, the disease does not cause the muscles to become weak. The condition affects mainly muscles in the neck, shoulders, lower back, hips and thighs. It is believed by many that the soreness and inflammation in the muscles is caused by inflammation in the blood vessels of the muscles. Women over the age of 50 are generally more affected than men, and those over the age of 50.

Polymyositis & Dermatomyositis

Polymositis and dermatomyositis, unlike polymyalgia rheumatica causes the weakening of the muscles, and after time will cause the muscles to come smaller. If can affect any muscle of the body as well as the heart and lungs, and affects women twice as often as men between the ages of 5 and 15 and 50 and 70. When the skin is involved the condition is called dermatomyositis and causes rashes all over the body.


Pseudogout is caused by a build up of calcium in the body. This build up forms crystals that deposit themselves in the joints causing inflammation and pain. Additionally, the deposits may cause the joints to weaken and become damaged eventually wearing the joint down completely causing the bones to rub against one another. Men and women develop pseudogout in similar numbers, mostly in middle-aged to elderly people.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis causes pain and swelling in the joints as well as a scaly rash on the skin. It generally affects the wrists, knees, ankles, fingers and toes and sometimes the back. Psoriasis is a skin disease that is linked to psoriatic arthritis and is a scaly skin rash on the elbows, knees and scalp. Psoriatic arthritis affects men and women in equal numbers and generally affects people between the ages of 20 and 50.

Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition that restricts blood flow to certain areas of the body. Most often occurring in the hands and feet, but sometimes affecting the nose and ears, it causes blood vessels to tighten under the skin, restricting blood flow and causing those areas of the body to turn cold and/or blue. The episodes are called vasospastic attacks. Most often this occurs when a person is cold or emotionally upset. If the condition worsen, and blood flow is permanently decreased, often the fingers will become thin and tapered and will have a shiny surface. Both forms affect women more than men with the primary for most often presenting in 15-25 year olds and the secondary form typically after 35-40 years of age.

Reactive Arthritis

Reactive arthritis is a form of arthritis that is caused by bacteria. The bacteria initially causes the person to get sick and will eventually travel to the joints causing pain and swelling. If affects the knees, ankles and toes in most cases but can also affect the eyes, skin and muscles. When it affects areas other than the joints the disease is called Reiters syndrome.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling in the lining of the joints where the two bones come together. The inflammation may also spread to other areas of the body such as the eyes, lungs and heart. While RA can affect any joint, it is most frequently seen in the hands and feet. Affecting women three times more than men. RA targets people between the ages of 25 and 50. Severe damage may lead to permanent joint deformity and disability.


Scleroderma means hard skin and is a condition that causes the thickening and hardening of the skin. However, in those patients affected by scleroderma, the immune system begins to attack its own healthy tissues causing them to become inflamed and the body to produce too much collagen. Collagen is tough fibre-like tissue that helps build tendons, ligaments and bones, as well as scar tissue.
There are two types of scleroderma, limited and generalized. Localized scleroderma affects primarily the skin, but may also affect the muscles and joints. Localized scleroderma is also the more common type among children. Generalized scleroderma affects the body much more broadly targeting internal organs such as the heart and lungs in addition to the skin.
Like many autoimmune diseases, scleroderma hits people in their prime, most often between the ages of 30 and 50.

Sjögren's Syndrome

Sjögren's syndrome is an ongoing condition that causes constant dy eyes and mouth. Additionally, it can affect the joints, muscles, nerves, and organs such as lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, stomach and brain as well as glands such as the thyroid and in severe cases can cause the complete destruction of any of these areas. It can occur in the primary (not associated with a rheumatic condition) or secondary (associated with another rheumatic condition such as lupus) form. Sjögren's affects women in a staggering twn times more often than men, most often after the age of 45.

Still's Disease

Still's disease is characterized by daily high fevers, rashes and inflammation of the joints. This form of arthritis is most common among children and is commonly referred to as systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis and accounts for 10-20% of all cases of juvenile arthritis.

Wegener's Granulomatosis

Wegener's granulomatosis is a condition in which the blood vessels swell and there is a damaging inflammation of the tissues. It can involved any organ, and affects mainly the respiratory system and kidneys.