Did you know that many common conditions that cause inflamed joints are actually types of arthritis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) affects about 1 in 100 Canadians and is 3 times as common in men as women. It is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the joints of the spine and vertebrae. It doesn't affect everyone the same way, and symptoms can range from mild back pain to periods of severe pain and stiffness. In some people, the inflammation causes the bones of the spine to fuse together.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which is found on the palm side of the wrist. Pressure on the median nerve causes numbness, tingling and pain, resulting in hand weakness. Performing repetitive, awkward motions with the hands or wrists can increase the risk of CTS. CTS may be treated with rest, medications, wrist supports, or surgery.

Fibromyalgia is a common condition affecting many Canadians. It is most common among middle-aged women. It is 6 to 9 times as common in women as in men. Fibromyalgia often causes pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Tiredness, sleep problems, joint numbness, impaired memory and difficulty concentrating are other common symptoms. There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia. However, it can be treated with medications, exercise, applying heat to affected areas, and making lifestyle changes to help deal with fatigue.

Gout affects 1 in 30 Canadians, and at least 4 times as many men as women. In men, gout usually develops between 30 and 50 years of age, while women develop gout much later, usually after the age of 60. Gout develops when uric acid (a chemical in the bloodstream) builds up in the body. Normally, the kidneys flush the uric acid from the body through urine, but in gout, not enough uric acid is flushed out because the body is making too much uric acid or the rate of flushing is too slow. As a result, too much uric acid forms into crystals and deposits in different parts of the body, including the joints, causing inflammation in areas where the crystals form. Commonly the big toe is affected, but other joints such as the ankle, foot, knee, hand, wrist, and elbow can be affected as well. Medications and changes in diet can help control gout.

Lupus affects about 1 in every 1000 Canadians. It affects women up to 9 times as often as men. The term "lupus" is used to describe a group of diseases, with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (also referred to as lupus) being the most common and also the most serious. SLE causes inflammation and damage of the joints and other connective tissues of the body such as skin, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. In SLE, the body's immune system starts attacking healthy tissues, causing inflammation and destruction. Other organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys, may also be damaged. Although there is no cure for SLE, treatments are available to help control the symptoms and reduce the inflammation.

Lyme disease can affect both men and women at any age. It is more common in adolescents, young adults, and those involved in outdoor activities such as hiking, hunting, and climbing. Lyme disease is caused by a bite from a germ-infected tick. As the tick bites, the germ enters the body and travels through the blood to different areas. The joints, nervous system, heart, and skin can be affected if Lyme disease is not treated. Early symptoms may include a rash, fatigue, headaches, and joint pain. Later symptoms may include muscle weakness, loss of sensation, memory problems, and chronic fatigue. The disease was first identified in 1975, when physicians misdiagnosed the disease in a group of children as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Scleroderma, meaning "hard skin," is a disease causing some areas of the skin to become thick and hard. It affects more than 16,000 Canadians between 30 and 50 years of age, with up to five times more women than men. There are 2 types of scleroderma: localized and generalized. Although localized scleroderma mostly affects the skin, the muscles and joints can also become involved. With generalized scleroderma, the skin and internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys, are affected.

In addition to arthritis, which involves inflammation of the joints, there are conditions that cause inflammation in the areas around the joints.

Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that cushions the joints. It often happens after joints have been overused. The elbows, shoulders, or hips are often affected. Bursitis can make movement painful and affected areas may be sensitive when pressure is applied.

Tendinitis (also spelled tendonitis) is the inflammation of a tendon (a cord that anchors a muscle to a bone). The usual symptoms are pain and tenderness near the affected joint. Tendinitis usually affects shoulders, elbows and knees, but hips and wrists can also be affected. Sometimes, it is also called tennis elbow, pitcher's shoulder, or jumper's knee, depending on the joints affected.