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Types of Arthritis, Signs, Diagnosis & Treatment

Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the United States, and with over 50 million Americans are living with it. So, what is arthritis? Is it more than joint pain? Can it be reduced or prevented with treatment plans? We have all your questions answered!

Types of Arthritis, Signs, Diagnosis & Treatment

With arthritis being the number one cause of disability in the United States, and with over 50 million Americans living with it, there are more than likely rising questions. What is it? Is arthritis more than joint pain? Can it be reduced or prevented with treatment plans? Those questions are answered here!

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is not a single disease, but rather an umbrella term for joint pain and disease. Despite over 100 types, arthritis is still not well understood and varies related to its form. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout are the most common types.

Osteoarthritis (OA)
Over years of use and injuries, protective cartilage and fluid inside the joint becomes broken down. Eventually, bones may rub directly together and result in penetrating pain. OA typically affects knees, hands, hips, and the spine.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA is an autoimmune condition, in which the body's own immune system attacks healthy tissues. The synovium, or the lining of joints, is attacked and results in severe, chronic inflammation. Along with the affected areas specified in OA, RA can harm vital organs such as the liver, heart, spleen and eyes.

Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)
PsA is similar to RA, where the immune system attacks healthy joints. However, PsA is typically seen in individuals with psoriasis and can effect any joint found in the body along with other connective tissue, such as the heel. Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes cells to build up rapidly and results in red dry flakes on the skin's surface.

Fibromyalgia involves nerve cells and results into neuronal imbalance. The changes in neurons often causes the brain to experience pain more sensitively and intensely, resulting in widespread musculoskeletal pain that affects areas around the joints.

Individuals with gout have trouble removing uric acid, the byproduct following the breakdown of purines, efficiently out of the body. Insufficient removal causes uric acid to build up and can form crystals in the joint. Those who develop flares may experience intense, onset pain where most forms of arthritis strengthen over time. Avoiding purine-rich foods, such as meat and seafood, can reduce symptoms associated with gout.

Symptoms and Causes

When it comes to the cause of arthritis, there is not one finite or black and white answer. Instead, extensive gray areas help to explain the cause relative to the arthritic type and form. However, there is some commonality - a reduction in cartilage, the flexible connective tissue that protects joints. The destruction of cartilage results in mild to severe symptoms and can include swelling, pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the stimulated areas. Wear and tear of the cartilage can result with advancing age, overuse, and conditions affecting the immune system.

Arthritis is more common in women than men. Adults aged 65 years or older are also more apt to develop arthritis, although children, teens, and younger adults can still be diagnosed. Individuals who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing arthritis, as carrying excess pounds can put stress on joints.


A true arthritis diagnosis requires medical attention. During a physical exam, a doctor will check for fluid around the affected joints, red or warm joints, and a reduced range of motion in the joints. Further analysis may consist of blood and joint fluid extractions to identify inflammation. X-rays and other similar imaging techniques can further help doctors diagnose the type of arthritis.


When it comes to treating arthritis, there are a multitude of remedies and are oftentimes dictated by the type and severity. Although the main goal of each form is to reduce arthritic pain and further damage, general treatment options include medication, surgery, and natural remedies.

Arthritis medications work to reduce inflammation, pain, and an underlying infection. Common prescriptions include analgesics, biologics, corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Surgery options vary based on the severity and extent of joint pain. Operations can range from small incisions to repair tissue tears and cartilage, to fusing bones, all the way to a total joint replacement (TJR).

Natural Treatments
Supplements and herbs, vitamins and minerals, and alternative therapies can ease pain and inflammation. A multitude of supplements include fish oil, ginger, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and folate. Further natural remedies include massage, yoga and meditation, and acupuncture.

Arthritis Foundation. Available at:

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on August 25, 2016. Updated on August 01, 2019.


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