Less Common Types of Arthritis

Arthritis affects over 700,000 people in Ireland, the majority of these having osteoarthritis from wear and tear on joints over the years. About 40,000 people have rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are over 100 different types of arthritis and related diseases. Here are some of these:

Behcet’s Disease

Behcet’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder. It is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. The effects of the disease may include blindness, stroke, swelling of the spinal cord, and intestinal complications.

Inflammation of the joints occurs in more than half of all patients with Behcet’s disease, causing pain and stiffness, especially in the knees, ankles, wrists, and elbows. The disease tends to develop in people in their 20s or 30s, but can occur at any age. It is rare in Ireland.

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH)

Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) is a degenerative form of arthritis usually affecting people over 50. Individuals experience excessive bone growth along the sides of the vertebrae of the spine. It is also associated with inflammation and calcification (bone growth) at other areas of the body where tendons and ligaments attach to bone such as at the elbow, knee and the heel of the foot. These can lead to the formation of bone spurs.

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a group of rare hereditary disorders that mainly affect the skin and joints, but may also affect other organs. The disorder affects the connective tissues that support such parts of the body as the skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. EDS is an inherited disorder caused by faulty or reduced amounts of collagen (the main protein of connective tissue). People with these disorders tend to have loose joints, skin that stretches easily, and a tendency to bruise.

Felty’s Syndrome

Felty’s syndrome is a rare complication of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Those with the syndrome will have three things; rheumatoid arthritis, an enlarged spleen, and a low white blood count (which means they are often more prone to infection). Felty’s syndrome affects less than 1% of people with RA.

Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder

Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD) is a rare autoimmune disease, which mostly affects women. It is considered an ‘overlap’ of three other diseases: systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), scleroderma (a connective tissue disease) and polymyositis (involves inflammation of the muscle fibres).

Paget’s Disease

Paget’s disease causes a malfunction in the normal process of bone remodeling, which causes enlarged, fractured and deformed bones. The disease more commonly affects the spine, pelvis, skull, thighbone and shinbone.


Pseudogout is a type of arthritis that is caused by the build-up of calcium crystals in the joints of body. The calcium deposits and chronic inflammation can cause parts of the joint structure to weaken and break down. Gout usually attacks the big toe, while pseudogout most often attacks the knees.


Raynaud’s is a common condition that makes it harder for the blood to reach certain parts of your body. The disorder often affects the hands, feet, nose and ears making them turn blue and cold. For further information contact: The Irish Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Society, PO Box 2958, Foxrock, Dublin 18, phone: 01-2350900.


Scleroderma is a relatively rare condition where the skin becomes thick and hard. There are two main types of scleroderma. One type is localised scleroderma, which affects mainly the skin. It can also involve the muscles and joints. The other type, generalised scleroderma, affects the skin as well as the internal organs, such as the heart, lungs and kidneys. For further information see address above.

Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an ongoing condition affecting the mucous membranes causing dry mouth and eyes. It can also affect other parts of the body including joints, muscles and nerves, and organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, stomach and brain. ‘Secondary’ Sjogren’s syndrome occurs in people who have a rheumatic condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Still’s disease

Still’s disease is a form of arthritis characterised by high fevers, salmon-coloured rashes and inflammation of the joints. The disease is most common among children and is commonly referred to as systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Still’s disease can also occur among adults.


Lupus is the name given to a group of chronic autoimmune diseases. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common and serious type of lupus. Inflammation can occur in the skin, muscles, joints, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and the nervous system. Lupus can affect men, women, and children of any age, but it occurs most often in women of childbearing age (i.e. ages 15 to 45 years). For further information contact the Lupus Support Group, Carmichael Centre, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7, phone: 01 872 4518, email:irishlupus@iol.ie), visit www.lupus.ie.

Wegener’s granulomatosis

Wegener’s granulomatosis is a relatively rare disease characterised by inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) and a type of damaging inflammation of the tissues referred to as granulomatous. Vasculitis can also damage important organs of the body by limiting blood flow to those organs and destroying normal tissue. Both sexes can be affected, and the condition typically occurs in middle age.