What is arthritis?


We associate arthritis with old age but it can affect people of any age, even children.

Arthritis describes over 100 different joint-related conditions, the two most common being: 

• Osteoarthritis 

• Rheumatoid arthritis 

Most types of arthritis cause pain and swelling in your joints where the bones meet (such as the elbow or knee). Common symptoms include stiffness, pain or difficulty moving around. 

What is osteoarthritis? 

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting nearly eight million people in the UK. Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or 'wear and tear' arthritis, it most often occurs in the hands, hips and knees. Osteoarthritis can cause pain, discomfort and swelling and tends to worsen over time if left untreated.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

• Pain or aching 

• Stiffness 

• Decreased range of motion (ability to move) and swelling 

Possible causes of osteoarthritis include joint injury or overuse, obesity and older age. 

What is rheumatoid arthritis? 

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks healthy cells in your own body. This triggers inflammation in the affected areas. 

Rheumatoid arthritis mainly attacks joints in the hands, wrists and knees. It may also affect other tissues throughout the body, causing issues in organs, such as the lungs, heart and eyes. Symptoms, which can fluctuate, include: 

• Pain or aching in joints

• Stiffness

• Tenderness and swelling

• Weight loss

• Fever

• Fatigue or tiredness and weakness

What are the other types of arthritis? 

Other types of arthritis and related conditions include: 

• Reactive arthritis (can cause inflammation of the joints, eyes and urethra) 

• Septic arthritis (triggered by infection that comes from the spread of bacterial, viral or fungal infection that spreads through the body) 

• Psoriatic arthritis (a type of arthritis that affects people with psoriasis)

• Ankylosing spondylitis (a long-term inflammatory condition that mainly affects the bones, muscles and ligaments of the spine) 

• Cervical spondylosis (affects the joints in the neck) 

• Fibromyalgia (causes pain in the body's muscles, ligaments and tendons)

• Lupus (an autoimmune condition that can affect many different organs in the body's tissue)

• Enteropathic arthritis (a form of chronic, inflammatory arthritis associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease) 

• Gout (a form of arthritis that usually affects the big toe joint first). Male gender and obesity are risk factors for developing gout

• Secondary arthritis (can develop after a joint injury) 

• Polymyalgia rheumatica (a condition where the immune system causes pain and stiffness, that almost always affects people over 50 years of age) 

Whilst we associate arthritis with older people, that's not always the case. Childhood arthritis (usually categorised as juvenile idiopathic arthritis) commonly improves with age, with many children no longer experiencing symptoms in adulthood.

Next steps

• Be sure to talk with your Doctor if you think you or your child may have symptoms of arthritis

• Treatment for arthritis varies depending on the type of arthritis you have, but your Doctor will be able to advise you on different treatments

• Your pharmacist will also be able to help you to understand what treatment options are most suitable for you