Arthritis is a range of conditions that cause pain and inflammation within your joints.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the term used to describe pain and stiffness within a joint. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, though the two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. You may also hear the word rheumatism which is a general term to describe any aches or pains in and around your joints.

It's very common affecting around 10 million people in the UK.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that usually develops in teenagers and young adults. It causes pain and stiffness in the back and other joints.

Degenerative arthritis

Degenerative arthritis is known as osteoarthritis. Normally the surfaces of the bones in your joints are surrounded by a tissue called cartilage, which prevents them from rubbing against each other. In osteoarthritis, your cartilage becomes damaged through gradual wear and tear causing pain and stiffness in affected joints. Factors that increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis include:

It's most common to have this type of arthritis in your knees, hips hands or spine.

Inflammatory arthritis

Inflammation is a healthy immune response by your body to fight infections and help heal damaged tissue. Sometimes, your immune system can also mistakenly attack healthy tissues - this is called an autoimmune condition. Many forms of inflammatory arthritis are autoimmune conditions in your joints, making them swollen, stiff and painful.

The most common type is rheumatoid arthritis, which usually affects many joints and can also cause:

How to tell if you have arthritis

Symptoms of arthritis vary from person to person and depend on the type of arthritis you have. They can also come and go at different times of the day, and improve or worsen as time goes on. The most common arthritis symptoms are:

If you have severe arthritis, you may find it difficult to do everyday tasks such as walking or climbing the stairs.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

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Diagnosis and tests for arthritis

Your GP will discuss your symptoms with you to make a diagnosis. They may refer you to a rheumatologist (a consultant who specialises in diagnosing and treating arthritis and joint problems) if they think your arthritis may be inflammatory. You might also have a blood test to check for signs of rheumatoid arthritis. A rheumatologist may conduct the following to assess joint damage and monitor disease progression:

Common treatments for arthritis

Although there's no cure, there are many treatments available to help you live with arthritis. Over-the-counter painkillers will be recommended to ease discomfort.

For osteoarthritis your doctor may prescribe:

Treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to slow down the disease progression
  • Physiotherapy

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