Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis: What You Need to Know

Arthritis refers to more than 100 different conditions – some acute and others chronic. Here are signs and symptoms of arthritis.

Doctor Checks Patient for Arthritis

Many people think arthritis is a single, chronic disease. Actually, arthritis refers to more than one hundred different conditions, some of which are acute and temporary while others are chronic. Various types of arthritis cause symptoms such as stiff, swollen or achy joints. Other arthritic conditions have wide-ranging symptoms and causes.

Understanding the types of arthritis and common symptoms allows patients to get treatment sooner, and therefore, avoid worse pain and further joint damage. In some cases, patients can avoid surgery if arthritis is diagnosed early.

Here are some common types of arthritis and symptoms:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis: A chronic condition that affects joints near the center of the body, often the spine and sacroiliac joints (found at the base of the spine). People often experience back pain and stiffness, as well as buttock pain.
  • Bursitis: Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sacs in the joints (bursae) become inflamed, achy or stiff. Bursitis most commonly occurs in the elbow, shoulder, hip and knee, and often, the area becomes swollen, red and tender.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: A repetitive stress injury that causes tingling and numbness in the thumb, first finger and middle finger. Patients may experience hand weakness or shooting pain.
  • DeQuervain’s tendinitis: A condition that causes pain on the side of the wrist and the base of the thumb.
  • Dupuytren’s contracture: This form of arthritis causes the tissue beneath the hand to develop nodules in the fingers and palms. These lumps can cause the fingers to stick in place.
  • Gout: Gout typically attacks one joint at a time, often the joint of the big toe. Gout usually causes sudden, severe pain and swelling.
  • Infectious arthritis (septic arthritis): If an infection gets into the bloodstream, it can cause the tissues and fluid in the joints to become infected as well. Infectious arthritis causes the joints to appear red and feel warm and may also result in fever and chills.
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis: This is a term used to describe several conditions that affect children younger than 16. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis can cause joint pain, stiffness, swelling, skin rashes and eye pain.
  • Lupus arthritis (systemic lupus erythematous): A condition in which the immune system attacks the tissues of the body. Symptoms can be mild to severe and can include joint stiffness and a butterfly-shaped rash on the face.
  • Osteoarthritis: One of the most common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis results from a breakdown in cartilage. This causes bone to rub against bone, resulting in pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion in the joint.
  • Osteoporosis: This condition causes the bones to become fragile. Common symptoms include a decrease in height, a stooped over appearance and back pain.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica: This form of arthritis happens only in the shoulder, causing stiffness and achiness.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body’s tissues in error. Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.
  • Spinal stenosis: This is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. When this happens, it can compress the nerves and spinal cord which can cause numbness, tingling and weakness.
  • Traumatic arthritis: Traumatic arthritis develops after an injury or physical trauma. Swelling and joint pain are common.

For More Information

For an A-Z listing of all forms of arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation.