Pain in your joints? Learn the different types of arthritis

Did you know that arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the United States? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this condition affects nearly 60 million people in the US each year, or about 24% of the population.

With more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, the causes and symptoms can vary from person to person. But what everyone with arthritis has in common is joint pain.

Maybe your hands hurt when the weather changes. Or perhaps your joints are stiff when you wake up in the morning. Learning more about arthritis can help you recognize the symptoms and get the right care to help manage the disease and improve your quality of life.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis refers to pain, and often inflammation (swelling) in one or more joints. Joints are where your bones connect and move. When someone has arthritis, those joints can become painful and, in some cases, swollen.

Arthritis is often mistaken for its own independent disease, but it is actually a joint condition with many different causes. There are two main types of arthritis: non-inflammatory arthritis (a case of osteoarthritis) and inflammatory arthritis (often associated with a rheumatic condition). We will explain more about the types below.

The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion. These symptoms can vary from mild to severe and may be intermittent or come and go.

Arthritis tends to affect women more than men, and it is often associated with the aging process as our joints wear out more. But it affects people of all ages because it can be caused by many underlying conditions, including sports injuries and autoimmune disorders that cause the body’s immune system to attack healthy joints. its own strength (rheumatoid arthritis).

Types of arthritis

Experts believe that arthritis can have nearly 100 different causes, and people are learning more about them over time. Here are some of the most common types of arthritis:


Osteoarthritis It is the most common form of arthritis, affecting about 80% of adults over the age of 55. This disease is also sometimes called degenerative joint disease (DJD) or wear-and-tear arthritis because it occurs when the cartilage in your joints breaks down.

Our bones have cartilage at the ends, which acts as a cushion to help them move smoothly and avoid rubbing against each other. When someone has osteoarthritis, the cartilage in their joints has worn down. Without that protective layer, bones can painfully clench together. The cartilage itself has no nerves, but the bone underneath is packed with nerves, which causes joint pain.

Osteoarthritis can be caused by typical wear and tear as you age, injuries to the joints that damage cartilage, and repetitive movements at work or your daily activities that put pressure on your joints. friend. It can affect many different types of joints in the body, but it most often occurs with the joints you use the most, like your hands, wrists, shoulders, knees, or feet. (That also means it’s a little different for everyone.)

Osteoarthritis can be treated by a primary care physician, orthopedic specialist or a physiotherapist through medication, cortisone injections, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune rheumatic disease. These diseases cause a person’s immune cells to attack and damage the body’s own healthy joint tissues, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the hands, wrists, and knees, making everyday tasks like writing or taking the stairs difficult. If left untreated, it can damage other organs and systems, including your heart, lungs, and eyes.

With this form of arthritis, it’s important to get checked out rheumatologist. They can help you understand your diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan to improve your symptoms and protect your health long-term.

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is related to psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that causes uncomfortable red patches, often with a silvery flake-like layer on top. Most people will experience the skin symptoms of psoriasis long before developing psoriatic arthritis, which causes the joint pain, swelling, and stiffness of similar inflammatory joint conditions.

There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, but people often experience periods of flare-ups and remissions. It is usually treated by a rheumatologist with a combination of medication and physical and occupational therapies. If left untreated, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can be debilitating, so it’s important to continue care with a rheumatologist and often a dermatologist.


Gout is a condition caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product left behind when your body breaks down chemicals called purines. It’s usually soluble, but when you eat foods high in purines over time, urate crystals build up in your joints. This can lead to intense pain and swelling.

Uric acid crystal deposition and gout are more likely to occur in people who are obese, who are taking diuretics, and who have poor kidney function. Gout flares often come on suddenly. Rheumatologists use medication as the primary treatment and can also help prevent future gout attacks.

Juvenile arthritis

Also known as childhood rheumatism, juvenile arthritis (JA) is a term that describes several autoimmune or autoimmune diseases that affect children under 16 years of age. , including joints. Although JA can be a lifelong illness, it can go through periods of remission or complete recovery.

Treated by rheumatologists alongside the child’s pediatrician, conventional treatment for JA includes a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes integrative therapies such as acupuncture. .

A physiotherapist guides an arthritis patient through knee mobility exercises.

Where is arthritis most common in the body?

A question people often have is, Where is arthritis most common in the body? The answer is that there is not a specific area most commonly affected. If you have arthritis, it usually affects multiple joints. But it is true that the joints that we use the most in our daily lives can be most significantly affected by pain or stiffness. Those joints typically include our knees, hands, wrists, feet, ankles, hips, and shoulders.

Is arthritis hereditary?

Genetic research and research suggests that arthritis can be inherited, especially if your parents or someone in your close family has osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. It’s important to note that even if you’ve inherited those genes, not everyone will develop the joint condition or experience the same symptoms.

It is also common for arthritis to develop beyond a genetic cause. It can occur due to the normal aging process, wear and tear from repetitive stress on your joints, your unique anatomical structure, and many other factors. Your doctor will review your health history, symptoms, and any exam or imaging findings to make a diagnosis and help you understand the most likely cause.

Is arthritis always a chronic (long-term) condition?

No, arthritis is not always a chronic condition. For example, if the cause is a pre-existing condition that goes away, arthritis symptoms may go away with it.

But unfortunately, arthritis is a much more common long-term condition that people need to manage with ongoing treatments, like medications and lifestyle changes. This is especially true in the case of osteoarthritis, the most common type. When joints wear out and cartilage degrades, cartilage cannot grow back. But variables like age, weight, and history of joint injury can determine the severity of the condition over time.

Long-term effects of untreated arthritis

The long-term effects of arthritis are highly dependent on the type or cause. For moderate arthritis associated with joint wear and tear, no treatment may be needed. You can adjust your lifestyle to make your daily activities more comfortable. For example, if you have knee pain, you can change your usual exercise plan to walking instead of using the stair-climbing machine at the gym. Non-weight-bearing exercises such as cycling and water aerobics can allow supporting muscles to be strengthened without aggravating joint pain in weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees. , ankles and feet.

However, when autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis go untreated, you can face more serious health risks, including joint deformity, permanent joint damage, and even joint damage. damage other organs and systems throughout the body. For that reason, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any symptoms you notice and find out what’s causing them.

Think you might have arthritis? Talk to your doctor

A little joint pain here and there can be normal as we go through our lives. But if you’re experiencing recurrent pain in your joints, whether it’s sudden or increases as you age, you should talk to your doctor.

Primary care doctors can listen to you about your symptoms, review your health history, and help you understand what you’re experiencing. Depending on the diagnosis, they may recommend treatments that may be helpful or recommend that you see a doctor. rheumatologist or one orthopedic doctor for more specialized care.

Primary care appointment

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