types of arthritis - a man rubbing his hand as it is in pain caused by a type of arthritis

What are the different types of arthritis?

08 Jun 2023 • 15 min read

It is estimated that a staggering 20.3 million people in the UK (that’s around 32% of the total population) currently live with a musculoskeletal condition such as arthritis or back pain. 1 Although arthritis is more commonly associated with old age, there are over 100 different forms , which affect people of all ages – from young children and teenagers, to adults and the elderly.

Skip to: What is arthritis | How is arthritis diagnosed | 4 common types of arthritis

What is arthritis?

What is arthritis?

Arthritis affects approximately 10 million people in the UK and is not a single disease, but rather a term used to describe pain, inflammation, stiffness and swelling of the joints.2 Symptoms can vary from mild discomfort to severe chronic pain, and can either remain stable for many years, or can get progressively get worse over time.

Research has revealed that one in every 13 people in the UK have some form of arthritis by the time they reach midlife, and the impact of the condition is huge.3 Everyday tasks such as working, moving freely, caring for loved ones and living independently can all be made much harder by the chronic pain of arthritis.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

If you think you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following arthritis symptoms, you should talk to a medical professional and seek a diagnosis.4

  • Tenderness, joint pain and stiffness
  • Inflammation in and around a joint
  • Restricted movement of a joint
  • Warm red skin on a joint
  • Weakness of a joint or muscle

A diagnosis is achieved by accessing the amount of movement in your joints and the amount of fluid around the joints. If you’re experiencing an arthritis flare up, they’ll be able to assess any swelling or redness of the joint.

4 common types of arthritis

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but there are over 100 different types that can affect different parts of the body such as hands, knees, fingers and hips. Here are a few common types of arthritis:

1. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK, affecting around one third of people aged 45 and above.5 It typically limits movement and causes pain in the hands, knees and hips (although other areas can be affected).

Osteoarthritis is the result of the tissue and cartilage within a joint breaking down and the body’s attempt to repair this damage.6 The condition causes joints to become difficult to move, which then leads to stiffness and pain. You may also experience tenderness, swelling or crackling noises of the joints.7

Movement is lost due to the breakdown of the cartilage, a firm and flexible connective tissue that protects the joint from stress.

Once the cartilage surrounding the joint is damaged, this puts increased strain on other parts of your joints. The ligaments and tendons then work harder to assist movement which results in swelling and pain.

Symptoms can vary depending on the affected joint. Some may go after a while, while others may be more long-term.

Am I at risk of osteoarthritis?

There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis including:8

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Bone density
  • Occupation
  • Genetic factors.

Osteoarthritis commonly affects adults that are in their mid-40s or over. It’s also more common in women than men, although research now suggests that this gap decreases after the menopause.9 Your risk of osteoarthritis also increases if you have an existing joint injury or disease, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

Handpicked content: What is osteoarthritis?

2. Rheumatoid arthritis

2. Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects nearly half a million people in the UK, causing joint pain and stiffness in parts of the body, commonly the hands, wrists, and feet.10

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system wrongly attacks the cells that line your joints.11 This then makes joints swollen, stiff, and painful, and long-term can lead to damage to the cartilage, joint, and bones.12

As a long-term condition, it’s important to see your doctor if you’re experiencing ongoing joint pain and stiffness. Early treatment can reduce the risk of further damage and prevent the condition from getting worse.

Am I at risk of rheumatoid arthritis?

This form of arthritis affects adults of all ages but is most often seen in those over 40, and is two to three times more likely to affect women than men.13 Other common risk factors of developing rheumatoid arthritis include obesity, smoking and genetics.14

3. Gout

3. Gout

Research by Imperial College London & Versus Arthritis revealed that over 1.5 million people in the UK suffer from gout.15 Although gout can affect many areas including ankles, knees, elbows, and fingers, the most common joint affected is the MTP (at the base of your big toe).16 The condition has been found to be more prevalent in men than in women, and those that suffer from chronic kidney disease are also more at risk of developing gout.17

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood.18 The build-up then forms uric crystals in or around joints, leading to swelling, heat, redness, and pain.

Handpicked content: Gout: Causes, treatment & prevention

4. Psoriatic arthritis

An inflammatory joint condition that affects approximately 30% of people who live with psoriasis, although not everyone with psoriatic arthritis develops psoriasis first.19 20 It causes joints to become painful, stiff, and swollen. The most commonly affected areas include the joints around your knees, hands and feet, as well as areas where tendons join the bone (like the heel and lower back).21

If diagnosed early, the effects of psoriatic arthritis can be slowed to minimise joint damage.22 23 There are currently studies being carried out by the University of Manchester, Imperial College London, UWE and the University of Glasgow into psoriatic arthritis, looking into new ways to manage symptoms, diagnose the disease and the role that genetics may play in the development of PsA.24 25 26 27

If you want to learn more about arthritis, natural ways to support arthritis or advice on caring for stiff joints, you can find more information and articles here .































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