Types of Arthritis

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. The most common are:



Also referred to as degenerative joint disease, this is the most common type of arthritis and occurs most often in older people. This disease affects cartilage, which is the tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bones in a joint. Osteoarthritis is a result of this cartilage wearing away over time. In extreme cases the cartilage can completely wear away which leaves nothing to protect the bones in a joint and causes bone-on-bone contact. Bones may also bulge or stick out at the end of a joint. This is known as a bone spur.

Osteoarthritis causes joint pain and can limit a person's normal range of motion and the ability to freely move and bend a joint. When severe the joint may lose all movement causing a person to become disabled. Disability most often occurs when the disease affects the spine, knees and hips.


Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system (the body’s way of fighting infection) attacks healthy joints, tissues and organs. This disease occurs most often in women of childbearing age (15-44) and occurs two to three times more in women than in men. 

Rheumatoid arthritis inflames the lining (or synovium) of joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of function in joints. When severe, rheumatoid arthritis can cause a joint to become deformed. This can commonly be seen in the finger joints where the joints can become deformed causing the finger to bend or curve.

Rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects joints of the hands and feet and tends to be symmetrical. The disease affects the same joints on both sides of the body (like both hands or both feet) at the same time and with the same symptoms. There are no other forms of arthritis that are symmetrical. 



This chronic disorder causes pain throughout the tissues that support and move the bones and joints. Pain, stiffness and localised tender points occur in the muscles and tendons, particularly those of the neck, spine, shoulders and hips. Fatigue and sleep disturbances may also occur.



Gout occurs when a person has higher than normal levels of uric acid in the blood. The body makes uric acid from many of the foods we eat. Too much uric acid causes deposits, called uric acid crystals, to form in the fluid and lining of the joints. The result is an extremely painful attack of arthritis. The most common joint that gout affects is the big toe. This disease is more common in men than in women.

Gout has been linked with overindulgence of meat, alcohol and foods with high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup. A healthy diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates and lean meats with limited processed foods can greatly reduce the occurrence of gout. 


Infectious arthritis

An infection, either bacterial or viral, such as Lyme disease can result in arthritis. When this disease is caused by bacteria early treatment with antibiotics can ease symptoms and cure the disease.


Reactive arthritis

This is arthritis that develops after a person has an infection in the urinary tract, bowel or other organs. People who suffer from this disease often have eye problems, skin rashes and mouth sores.


Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriasis is a common skin problem that causes scaling and rashes. This condition often coincides with arthritis. This particular type of arthritis often affects the joints at the ends of the fingers and can cause changes in the fingernails and toenails. Sometimes the spine can also be affected.


Systemic lupus erythematosus

Also known as lupus or SLE, systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease. With an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks itself, killing healthy cells and tissue rather than doing its job to protect the body from disease and infection. Lupus causes inflammation and damage to a person’s joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, blood vessels, heart and brain. 


Ankylosing spondylitis

Most often ankylosing spondylitis affects the spine, causing pain and stiffness. It can also cause arthritis in the hips, shoulders and knees. It affects mostly men in their late teenage and early adult years.


Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

This is the most common type of arthritis in children and causes pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of function in the joints. Rashes and fevers can also occur with this disease.


Polymyalgia rheumatica

This disease involves tendons, muscles, ligaments, and tissues around the joint and symptoms include pain, aching and morning stiffness in the shoulders, hips, neck and lower back. It is sometimes the first sign of giant cell arteritis, a disease of the arteries characterised by inflammation, weakness, weight loss and fever.



Polymyositis causes inflammation and weakness in the muscles and can affect the whole body, greatly limiting daily activities and can lead to disability.



Bursa are small, fluid filled sacs which surround the joints and help reduce friction between bones and other moving structures in the joints. Bursitis is caused by inflammation of the bursa. The inflammation may result from arthritis in the joint, injury or infection of the bursa. Bursitis produces pain and tenderness and can limit the movement and function of nearby joints.



Tendinitis is also known as tendonitis and refers to inflammation of tendons, the tough cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone. It is caused by overuse, injury or a rheumatic condition. Tendinitis produces pain and tenderness and can lead to restricted movement of nearby joints.