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Many people think that arthritis is a specific condition but it’s actually a general term for joint disease or joint pain and in fact, there are over 100 different types of arthritis in addition to conditions related to arthritis. It’s a complex health issue with many different variables.

Although arthritis is often associated with an older population and there are types of arthritis that are more common among older adults, anyone, even young people can be affected. Arthritis can afflict both genders but it’s more common in women than in men.

Arthritis symptoms can vary depending on the type of arthritis and the individual involved. The most common symptoms include:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint inflammation
  • Joint stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion

In some cases, symptoms such as stiffness, inflammation and pain in joints progress gradually over time, leading to a debilitating situation with advanced age. In other cases, painful arthritis symptoms come and go over the years. There may be long stretches with no issues and then the symptoms may crop up again, eventually worsening later in life.

Some of the most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis: is the most common type of arthritis. Also referred to as OA, osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints affecting primarily the knees, hips and hands. There may also be arthritis pain in the foot. OA occurs when cartilage in the joints breaks down. Cartilage is connective tissue that protects bones and joints, absorbing shock and preventing bones from rubbing against each other during movement. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness and swelling. The symptoms typically develop gradually and worsen over time.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: is an autoimmune disorder. Also called RA, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells, primarily in the joints. The joints most often affected by RA include the hands, knees and wrists. It’s also common to experience foot pain from rheumatoid arthritis.RA tends to cause arthritic pain, inflammation and swelling in more than one joint, frequently affecting the same joint on both sides of the body.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis: is an inflammatory disease that primarily affects the skin and joints. The joints most commonly affected are the knees, ankles, wrists and fingers. Psoriatic arthritis foot pain can also occur.


Arthritis is diagnosed with the help of a number of different tools, including physical examination, laboratory tests and imaging.

  • Physical exam  During a physical exam, your doctor will observe your joints for signs of inflammation. They may also want to observe how much range of motion you have in your joints.
  • Imaging tests  X-rays are the most common type of imaging used to diagnose arthritis but your doctor may order other types as well, including computerized tomography (CT), ultrasound imaging and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Laboratory tests  Your doctor may want to take samples of bodily fluids for testing in order to help with diagnosing arthritis. These include urine, fluid from joints and blood.


In some cases, arthritis pain can be effectively managed with lifestyle changes and at-home remedies.

  • Exercise  It’s important to get and stay active when you have arthritis. Physical activity can help reduce stiffness and improve range of motion. Opt for low-impact activities like walking, swimming and cycling to avoid stressing tender joints. Be sure to speak to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Maintain a healthy weight  Excess weight can contribute to arthritis pain since extra pounds put stress on the joints of the lower body. Losing even small amounts of weight can reduce pressure on sore joints.
  • Hot and cold therapy — Alternating a heating pad with ice packs can be helpful for relieving arthritis pain.
  • Massage — Light-pressure massage can help relax muscles, increase circulation and ease pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
  • Orthotics  Wearing orthotics with your shoes can help reduce stress on painful joints in the lower body. Dr. Scholl’s® Knee Pain Relief Orthotics are specially designed for people suffering from knee pain, including osteoarthritis knee pain. They stabilize the knee and absorb shock to provide arthritis knee pain relief. Dr. Scholl’s® Pain Relief Orthotics for Arthritis Pain provide long-lasting relief from osteoarthritis pain. They’re especially helpful for arthritis foot pain as well as arthritis pains in the knees and hips.


Doctors often recommend conservative treatments for arthritis pain as a first step.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help relieve arthritis pain and reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help provide joint pain relief but it won’t help with inflammation.
  • Topical pain relievers — You can apply over-the-counter topical pain relievers directly to tender joints. Topical creams and gels may contain a number of different ingredients, including diclofenac sodium, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Dr. Scholl’s® Arthritis Pain Reliever contains 1% diclofenac sodium and penetrates deeply to target pain right at the source. The fast-absorbing gel is easy to use and doesn’t leave a greasy residue.

If over-the-counter products don’t provide adequate relief from arthritis pain, talk to your doctor. You may require stronger treatments such as prescription medications and corticosteroid injections.



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Frequently Asked Questions

What causes arthritis?

The exact cause of most types of arthritis is unknown. Gout is the only type of arthritis where the cause is fully understood. Gout is caused by an accumulation of urate crystals in the affected joint. These crystals form as the result of too much uric acid in the blood.

While it’s not clear exactly how you get arthritis in most cases, there are factors that can increase the risk of developing the condition. These include:

  • Excess weight – People who are overweight are at an increased risk of certain types of arthritis due to excessive pressure and stress on the joints.
  • Joint injuries – Joints that have been injured are more prone to certain types of arthritis due to long-term damage.
  • Smoking – People who smoke are at an increased risk of certain types of arthritis due to the joint-damaging effects of cigarettes.

What does arthritis feel like?

While arthritis symptoms vary between individuals and depending on the type of arthritis, common symptoms include pain and stiffness of a particular joint or multiple joints. The area may be tender and sore to the touch and in many cases, range of motion is limited. Swelling is also common. There are specific symptoms associated with different type of arthritis:

Gout – This type of arthritis most commonly affects the big toe. The pain usually comes on suddenly and severely with swelling and redness at the base of the big toe.

Lupus – This type of arthritis typically causes joint pain and swelling along with tiredness and other potential symptoms such as headaches, sensitivity to light and mild fever. People with certain types of lupus may also experience skin issues such as sores, rashes and hair loss.

Osteoarthritis – The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis causes pain and swelling in the joints, especially after a long, active day. Stiffness is also common, most notably after long periods of rest or after waking up in the morning. Muscle weakness and reduced range of motion are also common. Many people with osteoarthritis report a cracking or clicking sound when bending the affected joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis – This type of arthritis tends to affect multiple joints, causing pain, swelling and inflammation. Stiffness is common after waking up in the morning, and it can last a half hour or even longer.

Psoriatic arthritis – Also called PsA, psoriatic arthritis can cause a number of joint issues including pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness. Fingers and toes that are affected often swell up to a point where they look like sausages. PsA can also cause fatigue as well as eye symptoms such as redness and discomfort. In some cases, those with PsA will notice changes in their toenails and fingernails. The nails may crumble or form dents. They may also change color, becoming yellow or brown.

What is arthralgia?

Arthralgia is the term for discomfort (such as pain and stiffness) of a joint or multiple joints of the body such as the knees, hips and joints of the toes and fingers. Arthritis is a common cause of arthralgia.

How to prevent arthritis

There is no way to prevent arthritis completely. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing certain types of arthritis. These include:

Maintain a healthy weight since excess weight can put pressure on the joints, leaving them more susceptible to arthritis.

Don’t smoke since smoking can cause joint damage which can contribute to or worsen arthritis.

Take care when exercising or engaging in any activity that makes you prone to joint injuries. Consider protective attire and equipment such as toe protective shoes along with elbow and knee pads. When possible, avoid sports and activities that have a high risk of injury.

Is arthritis genetic?

There is a genetic link with certain types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and osteoarthritis. Although it’s not entirely clear how genes play a role, people are more likely to develop some types of arthritis if a parent or a sibling has had the disease.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include joint pain and stiffness that can last for a significant period of time, several weeks or even longer. More advanced cases of rheumatoid arthritis can cause swelling and even visible redness of affected joints. Stiffness is most common in the morning after first getting out of bed. The stiffness can last 30 minutes or longer in some cases.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints. The smaller joints of the hands are often the first to experience symptoms. It’s common for joints on both sides of the body to be affected. Some people also experience tiredness and a mild fever. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis often come and go.

What does arthritis look like?

Arthritis does not always produce visible symptoms and when it does, the symptoms will vary depending on the severity and type of arthritis. There are visible symptoms that are typically associated with specific types of arthritis. These include:

  • Gout – The joint at the base of the big toe is the most commonly affected joint in people who have gout although other joints can be affected as well. The base of the big toe will usually become red and swollen.
  • Lupus – Some people with lupus will develop a rash on the face or body. Depending on the type of lupus, the rash can take on different shapes and affect different areas of the face and body. Some people with lupus develop a distinctive butterfly-shaped rash that covers the cheeks along with the bridge of the nose. Rashes associated with lupus are usually red and scaly, and they can be triggered or made worse by sunlight and fluorescent lights. If the rash affects the scalp, hair loss can occur.
  • Osteoarthritis – While in its early stages osteoarthritis might not produce visible symptoms, as it progresses, it can cause swelling, bumps and deformities of the affected joints. For example, if the hands are affected, they can appear unusually large and misshapen.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – The hands are usually the first body parts to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis and it’s common for both hands to be affected. The wrists and knuckles may appear swollen at first but as the disease progresses, the fingers may become deformed, appearing in a twisted fashion. If the feet are affected, they may develop bumps and the toes may become deformed. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause redness in the eyes.
  • Psoriatic arthritis – A common visual symptom of psoriatic arthritis is significant swelling of the fingers or toes. Some people report that their swollen digits look like sausages. Nail issues are also associated with psoriatic arthritis. The nails of fingers and toes may become discolored and crumble or develop pits or dents. Psoriatic arthritis can also cause red eyes.

Is joint pain a symptom of COVID?

Yes, in some cases, joint pain can be a symptom of COVID-19. However, joint pain is one of many symptoms associated with COVID-19 and is not usually a sole indicator of an infection.

What helps arthritis?

There are a number of solutions for arthritis, from lifestyle changes to doctor prescribed treatments. These include:

  • Physical activity – Many people with arthritis shy away from exercise because it can be painful. However, exercise actually helps joint pain. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise plan.
  • Lose weight – If you’re overweight, ask your healthcare provider for help achieving a healthy weight as this can take pressure off of painful joints.
  • Orthotics – Shoe orthotics can improve the body’s alignment and provide extra support to reduce pressure on painful, arthritic joints.
  • Over-the-counter treatments – OTC pain relieving oral medications and topical creams are available to help relieve arthritis pain. Some of these products are also effective for inflammation. Ask your healthcare provider before considering any OTC medications.
  • Prescription treatments – In some cases doctors will prescribe stronger medications in order to relieve pain and reduce joint inflammation.

What does arthritis in the knee feel like?

Symptoms associated with arthritis in the knee will vary depending on the individual affected, the type of arthritis, and how advanced the condition is.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects the knee although other types of arthritis can also involve the knees. Osteoarthritis is often referred to as wear and tear arthritis because it typically occurs in people over 50 following decades of wear on the joints. As cartilage breaks down, the bones of the knee may rub together which can be painful.

Arthritic knees can also become stiff and swollen, and it’s common to experience a reduced range of motion. People with arthritis in the knee may find that their knees lock or buckle during certain types of movement such as bending. The pain and stiffness in the knee may be worse after getting up in the morning or following periods of rest. It may also be worse following intense physical activity.