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Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints. Sometime, it is used loosely to mean any disorder that affects joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis joint
Rheumatoid arthritis joint

Cause and diagnosis

There are over 100 types of arthritis.


  • Most types of arthritis cause pain and stiffness in and around the affected joint or joints.
  • Some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, also affect the immune system and some internal organs of the body.

Types of arthritis

  • The most common form of arthritis in the United States is osteoarthritis.
  • Other common types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia.
  • Fibromyalgia is included in arthritis for public health purposes.
Septic arthritis of left hip joint with melioidosis
[[Septic arthritis]] of left hip joint with [[melioidosis]]

Signs and symptoms

  • Different types of arthritis have different symptoms.
  • Pain and stiffness in and around one or more joints are common symptoms for most types of arthritis.
  • Depending on the type of arthritis, symptoms can develop suddenly or gradually over time. Symptoms may come and go, or persist over time.


Causes vary based on the type - septic arthritis is infectious in origin while gout is due to accumulation of uric acid in the joint, while many autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis have unknown causes.

Risk factors

Certain factors make it more likely that you will develop arthritis. You can control some risk factors, and others you cannot. By changing the risk factors you can control, you can decrease your risk of getting arthritis or making arthritis worse.

If you have a form of inflammatory arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, you may be more likely to develop complications from the flu than most people.

  • Flu-related complications may include:
  • Sinus infections.
  • Ear infections.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Pneumonia.
Ankle Joint Arthritis
Ankle Joint Arthritis

People with inflammatory arthritis are more vulnerable to flu-related complications because they have weakened immune systems. These forms of arthritis and some of the medications used to treat them can both weaken the immune system.


An estimated 54.4 million US adults have arthritis. Experts believe that number will grow as our nation’s population gets older.

Rheumatoid arthritis - affected joints of the hand
Rheumatoid arthritis - affected joints of the hand

Children and arthritis

Children can get arthritis. The most common type of arthritis found in children is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), also known as childhood arthritis or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Signs and symptoms of childhood arthritis may include:

  • Joint pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Fever.
  • Stiffness.
  • Rash.
  • Fatigue (tiredness).
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Inflammation of the eye.

Difficulty with daily living activities such as walking, dressing, and playing.

Childhood arthritis causes permanent damage to the affected joint or joints. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are important to prevent or minimize permanent damage. There is no cure for childhood arthritis, but some children with childhood arthritis achieve permanent remission, which means the disease is no longer active.


You can reduce your risk of getting some types of arthritis by changing risk factors you can control. Risk factors you can control include overweight and obesity, joint injuries, and smoking.

Rheumatoid-Arthritis Normal Joint Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid-Arthritis Normal Joint Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis


Diagnosis involves medical history, physical examination, X-rays, CT or MRI scans at times and blood tests.

It is possible to have more than one form of arthritis at the same time. There are many forms of arthritis, and diagnosing the specific type you have can help your doctor determine the best treatment. The earlier you understand your arthritis, the earlier you can start managing your disease, reducing pain, and making healthy lifestyle changes.


  • The focus of arthritis treatment is to:
  • Control pain.
  • Minimize joint damage.
  • Improve or maintain physical function and quality of life.
  • In inflammatory types of arthritis, it is also important to control inflammation.

Obesity and arthritis

It is important for people with arthritis to maintain a healthy weight. For people who are overweight or obese, losing weight reduces pressure on joints, particularly weight bearing joints like the hips and knees. In fact, losing as little as 10 to 12 pounds can reduce pain and improve function for people with arthritis. At any age, low-impact, arthritis-friendly physical activity and diet changes can help you lose weight. Learn about managing your weight at CDC’s Healthy Weight website.

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