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Arthritis Symptoms

No matter the underlying cause of the arthritis, the basic symptoms of all types of arthritis are very similar:

  • Typically, joints are painful, swell, are stiff, tender, and often warm and red.
  • Certain types of arthritis cause people to experience whole-body effects such as fatigue, fever and a rash.
But remember that joint pain and whole-body effects may be early symptoms of many different diseases, making it hard to determine that the disease is actually arthritis.

Each type of arthritis also has its own unique symptoms.

Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease)

  • People with this type of degenerative arthritis are typically better with resting the joint and not using it for a while. They can be a bit stiff in the morning and get better once they start to move around.
  • Osteoarthritis tends to strike the joints in the body that get the most use, such as elbows, shoulders, knees and hips.
  • Osteoarthritis is much worse when the joint is used. Working in the garden, going on a long walk, or any over-use of the joint can make the symptoms much worse.
  • Osteoarthritis tends to attack only one side of the body. For example, a left knee may have arthritis, but the right knee may not.
  • The pain from osteoarthritis can be mild or very severe, and this often does not correlate with the amount of destruction seen on X-rays.
Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • People with rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune) are often much worse with resting and when they are not using the affected joints. They typically wake up in the morning very sore and find that their pain increases when they sit or lie down for more than an hour.
  • The disease often attacks the same joints on both sides of the body, especially hands wrists, elbows feet, ankles, knees and neck.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis develops slowly over time, although juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can occasionally appear suddenly with no warning.
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have whole body symptoms. [See Whole-Body Symptoms for more detail.]


  • Gout typically strikes the big toe, but can strike any joint in the body. It typically only occurs in one toe, but it can happen on both sides of the body.


  • Pseudogout often causes pain in the knees and has symptoms similar to osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease).

Infectious Arthritis

  • Infectious arthritis is more likely to occur in the larger joints of the body such as the hips and the knees.

< Back What is Arthritis? Who is at Risk Next >
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