National Arthritis Week: Types, symptoms & treatments
Tuesday, April 05, 2022

What is it?

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. Arthritis affects people of all ages, including children.

Arthritis in Ireland

In Ireland, nearly one million people, including 1,200 children, are living with arthritis, making it the single biggest cause of disability.

Types of arthritis

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the 2 most common types of arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis.

It most often develops in people in their mid-40s or older and is more common in women and people with a family history of the condition. 

However, it can occur at any age as a result of an injury or be associated with other joint-related conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. This makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness.

Once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder.

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

Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position.

The most commonly affected joints are those in the:

  • Hands
  • Spine
  • Knees
  • Hips

Rheumatoid arthritis

This is a type of inflammatory arthritis. It is what is known as an auto-immune condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis often starts when a person is between 40 and 50 years old. Women are 3 times more likely to be affected than men.

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

The outer covering (synovium) of the joint is the first place affected.

This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint's shape. This may cause the bone and cartilage to break down.

People with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body.

Signs & symptoms

There are lots of different types of arthritis, two of the main types we have outlined above.

The symptoms you experience will vary depending on the type you have.

This is why it's important to get an accurate diagnosis if you have:

  • 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


There's no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help slow it down.

Osteoarthritis treatments include lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery.

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis aims to slow the condition's progress and minimise joint inflammation. This helps prevent joint damage.

Treatments include medication, physiotherapy and surgery.

For more information and support, check out Versus Arthritis and Arthritis Ireland.

Sources: NHS, Versus Arthritis, Arthritis Ireland