What Type of Arthritis Do You Have?

Medically reviewed by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR on October 24, 2017Written by Christine Case-Lo

100 types of joint pain

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that can cause debilitating joint pain. There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis and related conditions.

Arthritis affects more than 50 million American adults and 300,000 children, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The causes and treatment options available vary from one type of arthritis to another.

To find the best treatment and management strategies, it’s important to determine the type of arthritis you have. Read on to learn about the types and what their differences are.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. It affects about 27 million people in the United States, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

With OA, cartilage in your joints breaks down, causing your bones to rub together and your joints to swell. Age, obesity, injuries, family history, and joint overuse can raise your risk of developing it. Common symptoms include:

To learn if you have OA, your doctor will take your medical history and conduct a physical exam. They may order X-rays and other imaging tests. They may also aspirate an affected joint, taking a sample of fluid from inside to check for infection.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of autoimmune disease in which your body attacks healthy joint tissue. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that about 1.5 million adults in the United States have RA. Nearly three times as many women have RA than men.

Common symptoms of RA include morning stiffness and joint pain, typically in the same joint on both sides of your body. Joint deformities can eventually develop.

Additional symptoms may also develop in other parts of your body including the heart, lungs, eyes, or skin. Sjögren’s syndrome frequently occurs with RA. This condition causes severe dry eyes and mouth.

Other symptoms and complications include:

Testing for RA

Your doctor can’t use any single test to determine if you have RA. To develop a diagnosis, they’ll likely take a medical history, conduct a physical exam, and order X-rays or other imaging tests.

Your doctor may also order a:

These tests can help your doctor learn if you have an autoimmune reaction and systemic inflammation.

Juvenile arthritis (JA)

Juvenile arthritis (JA) affects children starting prior to 16 years old. About 300,000 children in the United States have JA, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

“JA” is an umbrella term for several types of arthritis that affect children. The most common type is juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a group of autoimmune disorders that can impact children’s joints. It can cause muscle and soft tissue to tighten, bones to erode, growth patterns to change, and joints to misalign.

Other less common forms of JA include:

Months of aching joints, swelling, stiffness, fatigue, and fevers can indicate JA.

Spondylarthropathies

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and other spondylarthropathies are autoimmune conditions that can attack the locations where tendons and ligaments attach to your bone. Symptoms include pain and stiffness, especially in your lower back.

Your spine will likely be affected the most, although some forms can attack your hands and feet. Eventually, bone fusion may occur, causing deformation of your spine and dysfunction of your shoulders and hips.

This type of arthritis is hereditary. Most people who develop AS have the HLA-B27 gene. You’re more likely to be affected if you’re Caucasian. It’s also more common in men than women.

Other diseases are also associated with the HLA-B27 gene, including:

Lupus erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is another autoimmune disease that can affect your joints and many types of connective tissue in your body. It can also damage your skin, lungs, kidneys, brain, and other organs.

SLE is more common among women, particularly those with African or Asian ancestry. Common symptoms include joint pain and swelling.

Other symptoms include:

You may experience more severe effects as the disease progresses. SLE affects people differently, but starting treatment as soon as possible and working with your doctor can help you manage this condition.

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis caused by the accumulation of urate crystals inside your joints. High levels of uric acid in your blood can put you at risk of gout.

An estimated 3.9 percent of American adults have gout — that’s 5.9 percent of American men and 2.0 percent of American women. Age, diet, alcohol use, and family history can affect your risk of developing gout.

Gout can be incredibly painful. A joint in your big toe is most likely to be affected, although it can potentially affect other joints. You may experience redness, swelling, and intense pain in your:

  • toes
  • feet
  • ankles
  • knees
  • hands
  • wrists

An acute attack of gout can last 12 to 24 hours, but the pain can linger for weeks. Gout can become more severe over time. Learn more about the symptoms of gout.

Infectious and reactive arthritis

Infectious (septic) arthritis is an infection in one of your joints that causes pain or swelling. The infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It can start in another part of your body and spread to your joints. This kind of arthritis is often accompanied by a fever and chills.

Reactive arthritis can occur when an infection in one part of your body triggers inflammation in a joint elsewhere in your body. The infection often occurs in your bladder or sexual organs.

To diagnose these conditions, your doctor can order tests on samples of your blood, urine, and fluid from inside an affected joint.

Other conditions and joint pain

Many other forms of arthritis and other conditions can also cause joint pain. A few examples include:

  • psoriatic arthritis, a condition in which the swollen, sore joints of arthritis accompany the skin disease psoriasis
  • fibromyalgia, a condition in which your brain processes pain in your muscles and joints in a way that amplifies your perception of the pain
  • scleroderma, a condition in which stiffening of your skin and damage to your small blood vessels can lead to joint pain

If you’re experiencing joint pain, stiffness, or other symptoms, talk to your doctor. They can help diagnose the cause of your symptoms and recommend a treatment plan. In the meantime, find relief from arthritis pain naturally.

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