Arthritis is a common condition that causes painful swelling of the joint. Millions of people in the UK have arthritis or similar conditions that affect the joints. Arthritis can affect people of all ages.

There is no cure for arthritis, but treatments have gotten much better in recent years. For many types of arthritis there is a clear benefit in starting treatment at an early stage.

Types of arthritis

There are many different types of arthritis. Some you may have heard of (like gout and lupus) and others probably not. The two most common types of arthritis are:

Osteoarthritis arthritis

Osteoarthritis starts with the roughening of cartilage (the strong tissue that protects your joints and bones). When this happens, the body tries to ‘repair’ the damage to make up for the loss of the substance. This can then cause:

  • Tiny bits of extra bone to grow at the ends of a bone within a joint.
  • An increase in the amount of fluid inside the joint.
  • The joint capsule to stretch, and lose its shape.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than osteoarthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. 

The outer covering of the joint is the first place affected. This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint’s shape. This may cause the bone and cartilage to break down. People with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body.

Symptoms of arthritis

Symptoms can vary depending on what type of arthritis you have.

If you are experiencing any of the following you should go see your GP:

  • Joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • Inflammation in and around the joints
  • Restricted movement of the joints
  • Warm red skin over the affected joint
  • Weakness and muscle wasting

What your GP can do

If your GP thinks you have arthritis, they may:

  • Prescribe medicines to help with pain and discomfort
  • Suggest gentle exercise to keep your joints active
  • Refer you to physiotherapy for musculoskeletal problem