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Symptoms and Signs of Arthritis

Doctor's Notes on Arthritis

Arthritis is a joint disorder that features inflammation of the joint. Signs and symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints. Any joint can develop arthritis; the pain may be intermittent or constant. Many of the forms of arthritis can cause signs and symptoms in various organs. Consequently, in addition to joint problems, certain forms of arthritis can also have signs and symptoms that include fever, lymph gland swelling, fatigue, weight loss, malaise and be related to abnormalities in organs such as the lungs, heart and/or kidneys.

Causes of arthritis depends upon the underlying problems or forms that trigger the disease. Causes include injury (over use of joints), metabolism (gout), genetics and/or inheritance (osteoarthritis), infection (Lyme disease), immune mediated (rheumatoid arthritis), systemic lupus erythematosus). Arthritis is classified as rheumatic disease; there are many forms of arthritis as over 100 have been described.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Arthritis Symptoms

Symptoms of arthritis include limited function and pain in the joints.

  • Inflammation of the joints from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth. Tenderness of the inflamed joint can be present. Loss of range of motion and deformity can result. Certain forms of arthritis can also be associated with pain and inflammation of tendons surrounding joints.
  • Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, including the knees, hips, fingers, wrists, ankles, feet, back, and neck.
  • The pain may be intermittent or constant.
  • Some types of arthritis cause acute episodes of symptoms (flare-ups).

Some forms of arthritis are more of an annoyance than a serious medical problem. However, millions of people suffer daily with pain and disability from arthritis or its complications. Moreover, many of the forms of arthritis, because they are rheumatic diseases, can cause symptoms affecting various organs of the body that do not directly involve the joints.

Therefore, signs and symptoms in some patients with certain forms of arthritis can also include

  • fever,
  • gland swelling,
  • weight loss, fatigue,
  • feeling unwell (malaise), and
  • even symptoms from abnormalities of organs such as the lungs, heart, or kidneys.

Arthritis Causes

The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. Causes include

Treatment programs, when possible, are often directed toward the precise cause of the arthritis.

More than 21 million Americans have osteoarthritis. Approximately 2.1 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis Causes and Treatment for Joint Stiffness and Pain Slideshow

Arthritis Causes and Treatment for Joint Stiffness and Pain Slideshow

As we age, we hope to develop knowledge, skill, and experience. While aging has its benefits, not many of them are apparent when it comes to your joints. Joints become stiffer as you age, and they cannot bend as easily because of changes that occur in your ligaments and tendons. Making things worse, the cushion that protects within your joints thins with age, which can bring on arthritis and inflammation. As the protective cartilage around your joints dries and stiffens and can slowly wear away.

There’s another common effect of aging that involves the fluid that oils your joints and keeps them bending smoothly. This is called synovial fluid. As your body ages, it produces less synovial fluid.

All of these problems together can add up to restricted, painful joints for many. And while moving around may not sound appealing, it’s actually the right way to address this common problem of aging. As you move, the synovial fluid in your joints is better able to keep your joints loose.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.