What is arthritis?

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a term used for more than 140 conditions that affect the joints. Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms.

Arthritis can involve almost any part of the body, most often the knee, hip, spine and other weight-bearing joints, but also smaller joints like fingers and toes. Some types of arthritis affect the skin and internal organs as well as joints.

People of all ages can get arthritis, including infants, although it is more common as we age. It is a chronic condition with no cure but can be treated and managed effectively.

In New Zealand the most common forms are osteoarthritis, gout arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


It’s just arthritis, but what about...

Do I have arthritis?

This question is best answered by a medical professional. There are so many conditions that involve the joints and arthritis affects each person in different ways, so diagnosis can be tricky. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Pain is common to nearly all types of arthritis, but may come and go and vary in intensity. Swelling and stiffness are other classic symptoms. Inflammatory arthritis can cause fatigue, fever, or a rash.

You may experience any one or a combination of the following:
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Difficulty moving the joint
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Fatigue and feeling generally unwell.

There are many different reasons why your joints may be sore – not all pain is caused by arthritis. Talk to your doctor if you have pain and stiffness that starts for no clear reason, lasts for more than a few days and is associated with swelling, redness and warmth in your joints.

Painful joints can lead to other effects, such as:
  • Muscle weakness, e.g. lack of grip in the hands
  • Loss of flexibility and mobility
  • Decreased aerobic fitness.


It’s no wonder that arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability, and has a huge impact on people’s quality of life. Early diagnosis and management are the keys to preventing further damage to your joints.

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