Symptoms commonly associated with arthritis include joint swelling, pain, and stiffness, and a reduced range of motion.

Arthritis” is a term that refers to a group of conditions that affect your joints. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 23.7% of people in the United States have some form of arthritis.

There are over 100 types of arthritis. While symptoms can vary by type, some of the most common symptoms across arthritis types are pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints.

This article looks at all the symptoms of arthritis, including where and when symptoms start and ways to get relief.

Common types of arthritis

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The symptoms most commonly associated with arthritis include:

The severity of arthritis symptoms can vary from person to person. Symptoms may also come and go or can remain constant.

When arthritis is severe, it can significantly affect your quality of life. Severe arthritis can lead to:

  • chronic pain
  • difficulty with movement and doing daily tasks
  • permanent damage or deformity to your joints

Some types of arthritis can eventually affect areas of the body other than the joints, such as RA and PsA.

What causes the symptoms of arthritis?

OA is generally due to wear and tear to your joints that cause the cartilage that cushions them to break down. Low levels of inflammation are also involved.

Several things can further stress joints, contributing to the development of OA, including:

  • overuse of a joint
  • previous injuries or surgeries
  • overweight or obesity

Other types of arthritis have different causes:

  • Autoimmune inflammatory arthritis happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissue.
  • Infectious arthritis is due to an infection that affects your joint tissue.
  • Gout occurs from the accumulation of uric acid crystals within your joints.
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Where the symptoms of arthritis typically start depends on the type of arthritis.


The joints most commonly affected by OA include the:

Autoimmune inflammatory arthritis

Where autoimmune inflammatory arthritis starts can depend on the specific condition.

For example, RA typically begins in the small joints of your hands and feet before spreading to larger joints. Unlike OA, it’s also often symmetrical, which means it affects the same joints on both sides of the body.

Meanwhile, PsA can affect small joints, such as those in your hands and feet, or larger joints, like the knee. More rarely, it can affect the spine. PsA may be either symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Infectious arthritis

Infectious arthritis happens when an infection travels to a joint elsewhere in the body. It typically affects only one joint, often large ones, like the knee or hip.


Gout most commonly affects the joint of the big toe. However, the condition can also affect other toe joints and your ankles or knees.

The age of onset of arthritis can vary based on the type of arthritis.

Generally, the rates of arthritis tend to increase with age. According to the CDC, in the United States from 2016–2018:

  • 50.4% of people ages 65 years and older reported receiving a diagnosis of any type of arthritis
  • 30.5% of people ages 45–64 received a diagnosis of any type of arthritis
  • 7.1% of adults ages 18–44 received a diagnosis of any type of arthritis

Most of the time, OA develops when a person is in their late 40s to mid-50s. Experts estimate 73% of people with OA are over 55.

Some types of arthritis can come on earlier. For example, the onset of RA can happen between ages 35 and 60, while the onset of JIA occurs before a person’s 16th birthday.

If you have arthritis, there are several things you can do to help get relief from your symptoms:

  • Medications: A variety of medications are available to reduce pain or inflammation associated with arthritis. The type that’s recommended depends on the type of arthritis you have.
  • Exercise: Exercise can have many benefits for people with arthritis, such as improving strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Working with a physical therapist may also be beneficial for some people.
  • Weight management: Taking steps to manage your weight if you have overweight or obesity can help lower stress on your joints.
  • Assistive devices: Assistive devices, such as canes or walkers, can help with movement in some people.
  • Complementary therapies: Some people may find that complementary therapies, like acupuncture or massage, help with their arthritis symptoms. Always talk with your doctor before adding complementary therapies to your treatment plan.
  • Other lifestyle strategies: Other lifestyle strategies can be beneficial for your arthritis and your overall health. In addition to what we’ve discussed above, this can include things like:
  • Surgery: If other treatments haven’t effectively managed your arthritis symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair damaged joints.

There are many types of arthritis. The most common symptoms across arthritis types include joint pain and swelling, stiff joints, and reduced range of motion.

The first joints affected by arthritis and age of onset can depend on the specific type of arthritis you have.

While there’s no cure for arthritis, many treatments are available to help you manage arthritis symptoms.