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  • Writer's pictureDr. Chris Phillips

Understanding the Different Types of Arthritis and How to Recognize Them

Arthritis is a broad term used to describe inflammation and pain in the joints of the body. There are numerous types of arthritis, each with its unique characteristics and symptoms. Understanding these types can help individuals recognize the signs early and seek appropriate medical care. In this article, we will explore the various types of arthritis and provide insights on how to identify them. Information within this article is credited to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and typically affects older individuals. It primarily involves the breakdown of cartilage, the cushioning tissue at the ends of bones in a joint. Recognizing osteoarthritis includes noticing:

  • Pain and stiffness: Most commonly felt in the hips, knees, and hands, especially after periods of inactivity or overuse.

  • Swelling or tenderness: Joints may appear swollen and tender to the touch.

  • Limited range of motion: Difficulty moving the affected joint through its full range of motion due to stiffness.

  • Bone spurs: Overgrowth of bone around the affected joints, visible on X-rays.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's joints. It can affect people of all ages and often involves multiple joints. Recognizing rheumatoid arthritis includes noticing:

  • Joint pain and swelling: Symmetrical joint swelling and pain, often affecting smaller joints like those in the hands, wrists, and feet.

  • Morning stiffness: Stiffness lasting for more than 30 minutes, particularly in the morning or after prolonged periods of inactivity.

  • Fatigue and general malaise: Feeling tired and weak due to the body's immune response.

  • Fever and weight loss: Low-grade fever and unintended weight loss.

Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects some individuals with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition. Recognizing psoriatic arthritis includes noticing:

  • Joint pain and swelling: Often affects the fingers, toes, lower back, and larger joints, with swelling and tenderness.

  • Nail changes: Irregularities in the nails, such as pitting or discoloration.

  • Psoriasis symptoms: Presence of scaly red patches of skin associated with psoriasis.


Gout is a form of arthritis characterized by intense joint pain, usually in the big toe. It occurs due to the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. Recognizing gout includes noticing:

  • Sudden and severe pain: Typically in the joint of the big toe, often accompanied by redness, swelling, and warmth.

  • Limited mobility: Pain can be so severe that it restricts movement of the affected joint.

  • Recurrent attacks: Episodes of pain and inflammation can occur periodically.

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine and pelvis. Recognizing ankylosing spondylitis includes noticing:

  • Chronic pain and stiffness: Particularly in the lower back and hips, which worsens after periods of inactivity or rest.

  • Limited spinal flexibility: Difficulty bending the spine, leading to a stooped posture.

  • Fatigue: Feeling tired due to the ongoing inflammation and pain.

There are several other less common or more specialized types of arthritis. Here are a few more types:

Reactive Arthritis

Reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter's syndrome, is a type of arthritis that typically develops in response to an infection in another part of the body. It often affects the joints, eyes, and urinary tract. Recognizing reactive arthritis includes noticing:

  • Joint pain and swelling: Typically affecting large joints like the knees, ankles, and feet.

  • Inflammation in other areas: Inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis), urinary tract, or skin.

  • Reactive trigger: Often follows an infection, such as a gastrointestinal or genitourinary infection.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus, is an autoimmune disease that can affect various organs and tissues, including the joints. Recognizing lupus-related arthritis includes noticing:

  • Joint pain and swelling: Often affecting the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees.

  • Butterfly rash: A characteristic facial rash that resembles the shape of a butterfly over the cheeks and nose.

  • Photosensitivity: Increased sensitivity to sunlight, causing skin rashes or other symptoms.

  • Fever and fatigue: Recurrent low-grade fever and persistent fatigue.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), also known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), is a type of arthritis that affects children. It involves persistent joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Recognizing JIA includes noticing:

  • Joint symptoms: Pain, swelling, and warmth in one or more joints, often on both sides of the body.

  • Fever: Episodes of high fever, especially during the evenings.

  • Morning stiffness: Stiffness upon waking, lasting for at least 30 minutes.

  • General malaise: Fatigue and overall feeling of unwellness.

Sjögren's Syndrome

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the moisture-producing glands in the eyes and mouth, leading to dryness. It can also cause arthritis. Recognizing Sjögren's syndrome-related arthritis includes noticing:

  • Joint pain and stiffness: Often affects the small joints, such as those in the hands and wrists.

  • Dry eyes and mouth: Persistent dryness in the eyes and mouth, causing discomfort.

  • Fatigue: Feeling consistently tired due to the immune response and associated symptoms.

These are a few additional types of arthritis, each with its unique characteristics and symptoms. If you suspect you may have any form of arthritis, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

At Paducah Rheumatology, we are here to help you live your best life.

Whether you are already diagnosed or suspect you have any of the diseases listed above, send our office your physician’s referral and then call us at 270-408-6100 to schedule an appointment.

We look forward to working with you!

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