Types, Symptoms, Treatments, Relief

arthritis Any group of diseases that affect the joints, usually causing joint pain and inflammation. There are many types of arthritis, and every joint in the body can be affected. Certain types of arthritis also affect other parts of the body, such as the eyes and internal organs.

Arthritis is common and the leading cause of disability in the United States. This article discusses the different types of arthritis and their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.

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types of arthritis

“Arthritis” is a generic term for about 100 conditions that affect the joints. Of these, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common.

Types of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative arthritis, occurs when the cartilage that provides the cushion between the bones in a joint is destroyed. OA is the most common type of arthritis and usually affects the fingers, knees, hips and spine.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) Autoimmune diseases are autoimmune diseases that cause joint damage when the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, the synovial tissue that protects the joints.
  • gout It is caused by high levels of uric acid causing crystal formation in the joints. It usually affects the big toe.
  • psoriatic arthritis It affects people with psoriasis, an autoimmune skin disease.
  • reactive arthritis Caused by an infection in the body.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis It is a form of autoimmune inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine, most commonly the joints that connect the spine and pelvis.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Some symptoms are common to all types of arthritis. These include:

  • joint pain
  • rigidity
  • swollen joints
  • redness and heat
  • loss of mobility
  • joint deformity
  • Malaise
  • Nodules (bumps) under the skin
  • Joint instability (wobbly joints)

Each type of arthritis has unique symptoms. For example, osteoarthritis can affect joints on one side of the body, while rheumatoid arthritis causes symmetrical symptoms and often affects the same joints on both sides of the body at the same time.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can also cause:

  • A feeling of cramping in the joints
  • Numbness or tingling (if the condition is pressing on a nearby nerve)
  • Pain or stiffness that worsens after activity

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • heat
  • weight loss
  • Increased pain and stiffness in the morning or afternoon
  • weakness

What Causes Arthritis?

Some arthritis has a definite cause. For example, gout is caused by high levels of uric acid forming crystals in the joints. However, in many cases the exact cause of arthritis is unknown.

Osteoarthritis has long been called attrition arthritis, but other processes, such as inflammation and genetics, are also thought to be involved.

Several types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, and juvenile arthritis, are autoimmune inflammatory diseases. They occur because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, resulting in increased inflammation and joint destruction. As a systemic disease, it often affects other parts of the body.

Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing arthritis.

Factors that contribute to osteoarthritis include:

  • obesity
  • smoking
  • female gender
  • increasing age
  • have injured a joint in the past
  • Family history of osteoarthritis
  • A job that involves repeated squatting

Factors that cause rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • old age
  • Gender (women at higher risk)
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • Genetics (human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, presence of class 2 genotypes)

Many factors can increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but certain characteristics, including breastfeeding, may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of arthritis begins with a physical examination and review of symptoms.

Imaging tests help diagnose arthritis and determine the extent of joint damage. These include:

Blood tests, such as the following, may be done to help determine whether inflammatory or autoimmune arthritis is present.

A joint aspiration (joint aspiration) can also analyze the fluid from the affected joint, looking for crystals (associated with gout) and bacteria.

How is arthritis treated?

Arthritis is usually treated with drugs, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery. The goal of arthritis treatment is symptom relief, not a quick fix or cure. Many types of arthritis are progressive. Getting treatment and managing the condition is important to maintain mobility and quality of life.


A variety of over-the-counter drugs (OTCs) are available to treat inflammation caused by arthritis, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as:

  • Advil, Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • Aleve (naproxen)
  • Bayer (aspirin)

Topical creams such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) and the NSAID Voltaren (diclofenac) also reduce pain. For more severe arthritis pain, a prescription NSAID, oral steroids, or steroid injections may be needed.

In addition to NSAIDs, recurrent gout may be treated with: Colchrys (colchicine). Some people with gout are treated long-term with drugs that reduce uric acid.

Rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis are also treated with drug therapies such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics.

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy

Physical and occupational therapy can help reduce pain and improve function in people with arthritis.

Physiotherapy interventions include:

  • Prescription for assistive devices (such as canes and walkers)
  • Exercises to improve range of motion and strength
  • Measures to relieve pain (such as electrical stimulation or ultrasound)

Occupational therapy interventions include:

  • Adaptive technology and equipment to make everyday life easier
  • Alter tasks to protect affected joints
  • splints or braces to support painful joints


Depending on the severity of the arthritis, your healthcare provider may consider surgery as a treatment option.

Common steps include:

  • arthroscopy Using a few very small incisions, a tool and a miniature camera are inserted into the affected joint to repair damaged soft tissue and cartilage or osteophytes (bone protrusions that grow along the edges of the joint). remove the
  • joint replacement surgery A procedure in which one or both surfaces of the joint are removed and replaced with plastic, metal, or ceramic implants.
  • Arthrodesis (arthrodesis) reserved for The most severe cases of arthritis. Arthrodesis joins the bones together permanently to prevent future movement in the joint.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Arthritis

A variety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions are used to treat arthritis symptoms. However, more research is needed to prove that these treatments are effective. Examples include:

Psychological effects of arthritis

In addition to physical symptoms, living with arthritis can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

See your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • restlessness
  • Feel worthless or hopeless
  • change in appetite
  • Decreased interest in hobbies
  • difficult to focus
  • lack of energy

Treatments such as therapy and medication can help manage these symptoms and improve overall quality of life. If you have thoughts of suicide, see your doctor immediately.

Daily management of arthritis

Symptoms of arthritis fluctuate from day to day. Listen to your body, schedule tasks for times when you usually feel best, and rest when you’re tired. Work with your health care provider to plan for arthritis recurrence. Strategies might include:

  • Add ice or heat.
  • Use pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Take a warm shower or stretch to release the tension.

Incorporating healthy sleep, nutrition, exercise, and stress management can help maintain overall health and reduce the severity of flare-ups if they do occur.

Verywell Health uses only high quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in its articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and maintain the accuracy, reliability, and reliability of our content.

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By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT

Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist with over 10 years of experience providing face-to-face and online education to healthcare professionals and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injuries, neurological disorders, developmental disorders and healthy living. Doctor and Professor of Anatomy and Physiology. .

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