There are millions, occasional billions, of people through the world who are sufferers of a condition that is generally called arthritis, which affects the person's joints to greater or less degrees. However badly one is affected by arthritis, each and every sufferer may tell you at one time or another that it is a debilitating and seriously painful condition which hampers their normal day to day activities and disruptions their lifestyles.

Arthritis is generally categorized into one of two variations of the disease – either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis – although there are many subdivisions of this condition which this article will not address. In general, it can be said that all arthritis sufferers experience, in some or all of their joints, the following symptoms: pain ranging from mild to severe, mild to total stiffness, swelling around the affected joints and the inflammation surrounding the affected joints which is always warm to the touch.

The differences between the 2 most common types of arthritis are as follows.

1. Osteoarthritis is the more common of the two forms of this disease which is deemed to be chronic and degenerative. This means that the pain experienced by the sufferer in on-going and that there is no cure. And it also means that over time, the physical condition of the patient will deteriorate. Osteoarthritis, which is also known as Degenerative Joint Disease, afflicts one in three Americans. In general, it attacks adults from the age of forty years onward, but is most commonly physically noticeable only later in life. The most prominent signs of the disease are commonly seen on the fingers of older people, which tend to be misshapen and / or knobbly.

2. Rheumatoid arthritis is distinct from osteoarthritis in that this form of the disease not only causes the same symptoms as those of osteoarthritis, but it is also an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation and damage to one's internal organs and blood vessels; thus it is clearly the more serious of the two versions of the disease. Statistics show that Rheumatoid arthritis affects more females than males. There are no age barriers as to when it may start affecting patients of either sex, but it has been proven that the earlier the disease takes hold, the faster it develops. It is also a known fact that Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers do not have sore and swollen joints at the sunset of the disease; and that they present with such diverse and varied symptoms as fatigue, weakness and loss of appetite; which then progress to morning stiffness (for more than an hour after waking) and generalized muscle pain. The disease then generally progresses to a stage where it causes damage to, or destruction of, the joints of the wrists, hands and fingers; knees, ankles, feet and toes.

There are many and varied forms of treatment for both forms of arthritis, all of which need to be discussed between doctor and patient. They include over the counter pharmaceutical preparations and prescriptions drugs, natural medicines and approaches, specifically acupuncture and various forms of physical therapy.