Arthritis signs & symptoms

Arthritis is a debilitating condition which causes joints to become painful, swollen and stiff.  Osteoarthritis is more common in women and people with a family history of the condition. Despite more commonly being diagnosed in those aged 40 and older, osteoarthritis can be seen at any age, often alongside injury or other joint-related issues.

The NHS explains osteoarthritis “initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint.

“This makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness.”

With osteoarthritis, once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thins out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder.

This can cause swelling and the formation of bony spurs called osteophytes.”

The second most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis – which affects more than 400,000 people in the UK.

Rheumatoid arthritis often begins when a person is between 40 and 50 years old, and women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

In cases of rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling.

Early signs of arthritis

Key arthritis symptoms include joint pain, tenderness and stiffness, however, there are a couple of early signs.

If you feel concerned about any symptoms, book an appointment to speak to your GP.

Healthline says early symptoms of arthritis include

  • Fatigue
  • Morning stiffness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Minor joint swelling
  • Fever
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Decrease in range of motion

When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, early symptoms may also include

  • General feeling of weakness
  • Dry itchy, inflamed eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Eye discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain when you breathe
  • Hard bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms

And classic arthritis symptoms listed by the NHS are

  • joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • inflammation in and around the joints
  • restricted movement of the joints
  • warm red skin over the affected joint
  • weakness and muscle wasting

Arthritis is diagnosed via physical assessment by your GP or a chartered physiotherapist.

Your health professional will check your joints for swelling, look at how easily they move and listen to you about your symptoms.

Blood tests may also be ordered to help confirm, however the NHS says it is important to note “no blood test can definitively prove or rule out a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, but several tests can show indications of the condition.”

X-rays may also be carried out, however, these are more to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

After diagnosis, your GP may refer you to a specialist depending on the type of arthritis you have.

Unfortunately, arthritis is a long-term condition and can’t be cured – but instead managed and treatments given to reduce symptoms.

Mild symptoms can sometimes be managed with simple measures including:

  • regular exercise
  • losing weight if you’re overweight
  • wearing suitable footwear
  • using special devices to reduce the strain on your joints during your everyday activities

For more severe symptoms you may need painkillers or treatment via a physiotherapist.

If joints become damaged, surgery may be offered to strengthen, repair or replace the joint.

Arthritis is a debilitating condition which causes joints to become painful, swollen and stiff.  Osteoarthritis is more common in women and people with a family history of the condition. Despite more commonly being diagnosed in those aged 40 and older, osteoarthritis can be seen at any age, often alongside injury or other joint-related issues.

The NHS explains osteoarthritis “initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint.

“This makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness.”

With osteoarthritis, once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thins out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder.

This can cause swelling and the formation of bony spurs called osteophytes.”

The second most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis – which affects more than 400,000 people in the UK.

Rheumatoid arthritis often begins when a person is between 40 and 50 years old, and women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

In cases of rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling.

Early signs of arthritis

Key arthritis symptoms include joint pain, tenderness and stiffness, however, there are a couple of early signs.

If you feel concerned about any symptoms, book an appointment to speak to your GP.

Healthline says early symptoms of arthritis include

  • Fatigue
  • Morning stiffness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Minor joint swelling
  • Fever
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Decrease in range of motion

When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, early symptoms may also include

  • General feeling of weakness
  • Dry itchy, inflamed eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Eye discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain when you breathe
  • Hard bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms

And classic arthritis symptoms listed by the NHS are

  • joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • inflammation in and around the joints
  • restricted movement of the joints
  • warm red skin over the affected joint
  • weakness and muscle wasting

Arthritis is diagnosed via physical assessment by your GP or a chartered physiotherapist.

Your health professional will check your joints for swelling, look at how easily they move and listen to you about your symptoms.

Blood tests may also be ordered to help confirm, however the NHS says it is important to note “no blood test can definitively prove or rule out a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, but several tests can show indications of the condition.”

X-rays may also be carried out, however, these are more to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

After diagnosis, your GP may refer you to a specialist depending on the type of arthritis you have.

Unfortunately, arthritis is a long-term condition and can’t be cured – but instead managed and treatments given to reduce symptoms.

Mild symptoms can sometimes be managed with simple measures including:

  • regular exercise
  • losing weight if you’re overweight
  • wearing suitable footwear
  • using special devices to reduce the strain on your joints during your everyday activities

For more severe symptoms you may need painkillers or treatment via a physiotherapist.

If joints become damaged, surgery may be offered to strengthen, repair or replace the joint.