Understanding Arthritis – Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

SOURCES: American College of Rheumatology. DePuy Orthapaedics. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Arthritis Foundation. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University. Arthritis-forum.net. National Institutes of Health. The Center for Current Research. National Internet Health. Alternative Medicine Foundation.

Reviewed by

Marc C. Levesque, MD, PhD on February 25, 2010

Joint pain and progressive stiffness without noticeable swelling, chills, or fever during normal activities probably indicates the gradual onset of osteoarthritis.

Painful swelling, inflammation, and stiffness in the fingers, arms, legs, and wrists occurring in the same joints on both sides of the body, especially on awakening, may be signs of rheumatoid arthritis.

Fever, joint inflammation, tenderness, and sharp pain, sometimes accompanied by chills and associated with an injury or another illness, may indicate infectious arthritis.

In children, intermittent fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and anemia, or blotchy rash on the arms and legs may signal the onset of some types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Other forms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are associated with joint stiffness, a limp, or joint swelling.

Call Your Doctor About Arthritis If:

  • The pain and stiffness come on quickly, whether from an injury or an unknown cause; you may be experiencing the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The pain is accompanied by fever; you may have infectious arthritis.
  • The pain develops quickly and is associated with redness and extreme tenderness of the joint; this may be the onset of gout.
  • You notice pain and stiffness in your arms, legs, or back after sitting for short periods or after a night’s sleep; you may be developing osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or another arthritic condition.
  • A child develops pain or a rash on armpits, knees, wrists, and ankles, or has fever swings, poor appetite, and weight loss; the child may have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.