A doctor talks to a patient about arthritis in his shoulder.

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. It can cause chronic and debilitating pain. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It often occurs as you age. Rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis are less common. While arthritis is one of the best known reasons for joint pain, several conditions can cause this symptom. Be sure to talk to your doctor to get a proper diagnosis.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common forms of arthritis. Known as the "wear-and-tear" kind of arthritis, it’s a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage in a joint. Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement of your joints. When it breaks down, your bones begin to rub against each other causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint that’s affected.

Osteoarthritis is sometimes also called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthrosis, hypertrophic arthritis and degenerative arthritis. It’s most common in older people and usually develops in your spine, hip, hand, knee and foot – though it can occur in other joints, too.

Osteoarthritis develops in stages:

Your cartilage loses elasticity and is more easily damaged by injury or use.

This wear causes changes to your underlying bone. It thickens, and cysts may occur under the cartilage. Bony growths, called spurs or osteophytes, develop near the end of the bone at the affected joint

 Bits of bone or cartilage float loosely in the joint space.

The joint lining, or synovium, becomes inflamed. As the cartilage breaks down, inflammation proteins and enzymes develop that damage your cartilage even further.

These changes in the cartilage and bones of your joint can lead to pain and stiffness, and can make it difficult to use your joint.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that affects the lining of your joints, or synovium. It causes pain, swelling and stiffness that can lead to long-term joint damage, a loss of function and disability.

RA progresses in three stages:

  1. The synovial lining swells causing you to experience pain, warmth, stiffness, redness and swelling around the joint.
  2. The cells divide and grow quickly, causing the synovium to thicken.
  3. The inflamed cells release enzymes that may digest bone and cartilage, often causing more pain, a loss of movement, and the joint to lose its shape and alignment.
Because it’s a chronic disease, RA continues indefinitely and is unlikely to go away. Flare-ups are common and since it’s a systemic disease, RA can affect your organs. Studies have shown that early, aggressive treatment can limit the damage, protecting as much as possible your ability to work and the movement of your joints.

Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile arthritis (JA) is any form of arthritis or arthritis-related condition that develops in children or teenagers younger than 18 years of age. According to the Arthritis Foundation, approximately 294,000 children are affected by pediatric arthritis and rheumatologic conditions.