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

Arthritis affects more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children in America, 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 the differences between them.

Osteoarthritis (OA), also called degenerative arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis. It affects over 32 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With OA, cartilage in your joints breaks down, eventually causing your bones to rub together and your joints to be inflamed, which leads to pain, bone injury, and even bone spur formation.

It may occur in just one or two joints, on one side of the body. Age, obesity, injuries, family history, and joint overuse can raise your risk of developing it. Common symptoms include:

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

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of autoimmune disease in which your body attacks healthy joint tissue.

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 severely dry eyes and mouth.

Other symptoms and complications include:

  • sleep difficulties
  • rheumatoid nodules under the skin and near joints, such as the elbow, that are firm to the touch and consist of inflamed cells
  • numbness, warmth, burning, and tingling in your hands and feet

Diagnosing RA

There is no one test to determine if you have RA. To develop a diagnosis, a doctor will 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 determine whether you have an autoimmune reaction and systemic inflammation.

Juvenile arthritis (JA) affects about 300,000 children in the United States, 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 (JIA), formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. This is a group of autoimmune disorders that can impact children’s joints.

JIA starts to occur in children younger than 16 years old. It can cause:

  • muscle and soft tissue to tighten
  • bones to erode
  • growth patterns to change
  • joints to misalign

Months of aching joints, swelling, stiffness, fatigue, and fevers may indicate juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Other less common forms of JA include:

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and other types are autoimmune conditions that attack 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, as AS is the most common of these conditions. It usually affects mainly the spine and pelvis but can affect other joints in the body.

Other spondyloarthropathies can attack peripheral joints, such as those in your hands and feet. In AS, bone fusion may occur, causing deformation of your spine and dysfunction of your shoulders and hips.

Ankylosing spondylitis is hereditary. Most people who develop AS have the HLA-B27 gene. You’re more likely to have this gene if you have AS. It’s also more common in men than women.

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

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is another autoimmune disease that can affect your joints and connective tissue in your body. It can also damage other organs, such as your:

  • skin
  • lungs
  • kidneys
  • heart
  • brain

SLE is more common among women. 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 can help you manage this condition.

Gout is a form of arthritis caused by the accumulation of urate crystals inside your joints. High levels of uric acid in your blood may 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 percent of American women. Age, diet, alcohol use, and family history can affect your risk of developing gout.

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

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

An acute attack of gout can come on strong within a few hours and can linger for days to weeks. Gout can become more severe over time. Learn more about the symptoms of gout.

Infectious arthritis is an infection in one of your joints that causes pain or swelling. The infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, 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 immune system dysfunction and inflammation in a joint elsewhere in your body. The infection often occurs in your gastrointestinal tract, 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.

The fingers are most commonly affected with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), but this painful condition affects other joints as well. Pink-colored fingers that appear sausage-like, and pitting of the fingernails, may also occur.

The disease may also progress to your spine, causing damage similar to that of ankylosing spondylitis.

If you have psoriasis, there’s a chance you could also develop PsA.

Other forms of arthritis, and other conditions, can also cause joint pain. Examples include:

  • fibromyalgia syndrome, a condition in which your brain processes pain in your muscles and joints in a way that amplifies your perception of the pain
  • scleroderma, an autoimmune condition in which inflammation and hardening in your skin connective tissues can lead to organ damage and 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.

Read this article in Spanish.