Forms of Arthritis

With over 140 different forms of arthritis it is not possible for us to have a dedicated page for each of these. If you are diagnosed with a form of arthritis e.g. sjogrens, that is not listed here please make contact with an Arthritis Educator on 0800 663 463 or use the Contact us form

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There are over 140 different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in our joints starts to break down. The cartilage becomes thinner, rough, and in some instances, bits can break off or the cartilage can wear away altogether. Without the cartilage to act as a shock absorber, joints can become stiff and painful.

The pain is often described as being like having shattered glass between your joints. To compensate for the lack of cartilage, sometimes bones grow thicker at the ends, forming bony spurs that can cause further pain and discomfort.

Osteoarthritis most commonly occurs in joints that carry our weight such as hips and knees, but is also common in fingers, hands and the spine.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system – which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks the joints.

This creates inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints (the synovium) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints. The synovium makes a fluid that lubricates joints and helps them move smoothly.

If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, the elastic tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint, as well as the bones themselves.


Fibromyalgia often causes widespread pain leading people to describe the symptoms as if it ‘hurts all over’.

For many people a diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome is a relief - at long last there is a name for what is wrong - and an assurance that it is not progressive or fatal.

The word ’fibromyalgia’ comes from the Latin term for fibrous tissue (fibro), and the Greek for muscle (myo) and pain (algia). It is called a ‘syndrome’ because it is a collection of symptoms such as muscular pain, stiffness, fatigue, rather than a disease.

Around 1 in 50 people will develop fibromyalgia at some time in their life. It most commonly develops between the ages of 25 – 55; and women are more likely to develop this syndrome than men.

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Ten to fifteen percent of men over 45 years old will get gout. For Maori and Pacific populations this increases to over 50%.

Gout is a form of arthritis that causes excruciating pain in your joints (usually the big toe). Gout is caused when uric acid levels build up in your bloodstream, and crystals of uric acid form around the joint causing pain. Gout can form quickly, and you can develop symptoms in a day.

A bout of gout usually lasts between 3-10 days. Some people will only ever get gout once, whereas other people can get gout several times a year. Over time multiple gout attacks can damage the joint.

Gout is the second most common form of arthritis in New Zealand.

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Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs.

Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.

Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus.

Polymyalgia rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) causes severe stiffness and pain in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, lower back, buttocks and thighs.

People with PMR may experience weariness and loss of energy, night sweats and fevers, weight loss and feeling low or depressed.

Polymyalgia rheumatica mainly affects people over the age of 60. Women are affected 2 to 3 times as often as men and it affects about 1 in 2,000 people. The cause is unknown and onset can be dramatic.

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Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory disorder that occurs when your body’s immune system begins to attack healthy cells and tissue.

The result is inflamed joints and overproduction of skin cells. This may cause joint pain and swelling, scaly patches on areas of skin and thickening or pitting of the fingernails and toenails.

Most people with psoriatic arthritis do not have severe skin symptoms. If someone has severe skin symptoms it does not mean they will have severe joint symptoms.

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Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that occurs after an infection in the bowel or genital tract.
It is one of the common forms of arthritis affecting young men, usually between 20 and 40 years old, but it may also affect young women and children.

Pain and swelling, usually of the knees, ankles or toes are often the first signs of reactive arthritis. Other joints can be affected, including fingers, wrists, elbows and joints at the base of the spine. Tendons around joints, such as the Achilles tendon, can also become inflamed.

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Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (pronounced ank-kih-low-sing spon-dill-eye-tiss), or AS, is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, although other joints can become involved.

It causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae) that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort.

In more advanced cases this inflammation can lead to ankylosis — new bone formation in the spine — causing sections of the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position.


The name scleroderma literally means hard skin.
Scleroderma is a rare chronic, often progressive autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.

Scleroderma affects the connective tissues of the body (tissues that hold together muscles, joints, blood vessels and internal organs).

The connective tissues of people with scleroderma have too much of a protein called ‘collagen’. Collagen is important to give connective tissue its strength, but excess collagen causes hardening and tightening of the affected area.

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