How to Detect Arthritis Symptoms: 11 Steps (with Pictures)

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How to Detect Arthritis Symptoms: 11 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Detect Arthritis Symptoms: 11 Steps (with Pictures)

Arthritis is a very common complaint among Americans, especially those aged 50 and over. The main symptoms of arthritis are pain of varying intensity, inflammation, and joint dysfunction and deformation. Although it can occur in any joint of the body, these symptoms are usually detected in the joints of the hands, hips, knees, and spine that have arthritis. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Arthritis symptom detection is needed to determine the right therapy and reduce the risk of permanent disability.


Part 1 of 3: Detecting Arthritis Early Symptoms

Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 1
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 1

Step 1. Observe the presence or absence of joint pain

Regardless of the type, the most common symptom of arthritis is pain. One of the symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA) is joint pain after exercising or high-intensity activities because the joints are working too hard. Pain that arises when walking and after some time is not moved is one of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

  • Pain from arthritis is usually accompanied by numbness, pain, and/or throbbing. More severe arthritis can cause stabbing pain and an electric shock.
  • When you start getting arthritis, the joints are less painful, but as time goes on, the pain gets worse. Pain in OA increases gradually, whereas arthritis with inflammation (eg attacks of gout) causes extreme pain that appears suddenly.
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 2
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 2

Step 2. Observe for swelling and redness

The literal meaning of arthritis is inflammation of the joints, but some types of arthritis are accompanied by severe swelling. In general, pain from OA is not accompanied by swelling or redness. In contrast, RA triggers severe swelling and redness because the body's immune system attacks the joint capsule tissue (synovial membrane). Gout is a severe inflammation caused by the accumulation of sharp crystals of uric acid in the joint capsule, especially in the big toe.

  • PsA occurs because the body's immune system attacks the joints, so it is classified as an autoimmune disorder. Swelling and redness are more clearly seen on PsA.
  • In addition to triggering severe inflammation in the affected joints (usually the hand and wrist joints), RA causes mild inflammation throughout the body.
  • If you can't remove the ring you're wearing, this could indicate swelling of the finger joints.
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 3
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 3

Step 3. Observe the presence or absence of joint stiffness

In all types of arthritis, the initial symptom that often occurs is joint stiffness. This makes it difficult for people with arthritis to move freely because the joints are painful, swollen, and/or damaged. In addition, arthritis makes joints sound creaky or creaky when moved after a long period of inactivity, especially in people with OA.

  • Joint stiffness usually doesn't narrow your range of motion, but it can be an indication of a more serious joint problem.
  • If you have OA and gout, joint stiffness and other symptoms usually occur on only one side of the body. If you have arthritis due to autoimmune, such as RA and PsA, these complaints occur on both sides of the body.
  • The joint stiffness experienced by people with RA and PsA is usually worse in the morning, but people with OA experience more stiffness at night.
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 4
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 4

Step 4. Watch out if you feel unusually tired

Fatigue (extreme fatigue) is one of the early signs of some types of arthritis, but not all. Autoimmune arthritis (RA and PsA) usually causes inflammation and other disorders throughout the body, rather than just specific joints. Therefore, the body becomes tired and weak as it tries to deal with inflammation. Chronic fatigue tends to have a negative impact on emotions, thoughts, sex drive, concentration, creativity, and productivity.

  • Fatigue from RA and PsA can be caused by loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Other types of arthritis, such as OA, can trigger chronic fatigue if joint pain is severe enough to affect sleep and eating patterns.

Part 2 of 3: Detecting Symptoms of Severe Arthritis

Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 5
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 5

Step 1. Watch out for narrowing range of motion

The ability to move will be reduced if the inflammation, stiffness, and/or joint damage worsens. Therefore, reduced range of motion (difficulty moving) is a common symptom of severe arthritis and a major cause of disability. This symptom makes it impossible for you to bend your body closer to your usual flexible leg.

  • In OA, the reduced range of motion slows down little by little because the cartilage thins so that the bones rub against each other and bone spurs or osteophytes form.
  • In RA and PsA, the range of motion is affected by the severity of joint swelling that may heal and recur, but over time, RA and PsA damage the cartilage and make the joint very difficult to move.
  • Septic arthritis is triggered by an infection within the joint characterized by attacks of severe pain and difficulty moving the affected joint. The infection can damage the joint within a few weeks.
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 6
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 6

Step 2. Watch out if the joint suddenly feels weak

Chronic pain and reduced range of motion are followed by loss of joint strength. This condition can be triggered by the body's mechanism to avoid pain or damage to joint tissue. In addition, lack of exercise activity (common in people with arthritis) makes muscle tissue shrink so that muscle strength is reduced. If you experience this, you may not be able to lift heavy objects or walk as far as you normally would. The strength of the grip and handshake is reduced.

  • The muscles that support the joints affected by arthritis will atrophy (shrink and become weak).
  • Weak muscles and joints feel unstable and shake or twist slightly when lifting heavy weights.
  • Over time, weak muscles lead to reduced agility, dexterity, and coordination of body movements. The joints of the hands with arthritis will feel stiff and weak so that the items they hold often fall.
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 7
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 7

Step 3. Observe the presence or absence of joint deformation

Deformation or changes in the shape of the joint will occur in all types of arthritis. However, it progresses more quickly and is more clearly seen in certain types of arthritis. RA is a very dangerous type of arthritis because inflammation causes deformation of the joints of the hands and feet so that cartilage and bone humps are eroded and ligaments become weak (loose). In the long term, RA is more destructive than other types of arthritis because the patient is at risk for disability.

  • OA also causes joint deformation (commonly called a bulge), but it doesn't cause the joint to bend like RA does.
  • One of the symptoms of RA is the appearance of nodules (large soft lumps) near the joints. Nodules occur in 20-30% of RA cases, usually on the hands, feet, elbows, and knees.
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 8
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 8

Step 4. Observe for changes in skin texture and color

One of the symptoms of severe arthritis is a change in skin texture and color. In addition to the appearance of nodules, RA and PsA often cause changes in the texture and color of the skin around painful joints and in other parts of the body. RA makes the skin look redder than usual mainly due to swelling of the capillaries under the skin (called vasculitis).

  • In addition, PsA usually triggers psoriasis on the skin so that the skin thickens and is silvery in color or appears red patches that feel rough and itchy.
  • A gout attack usually causes crusting around the painful joint.
  • All types of arthritis trigger swelling and severe inflammation that causes the skin temperature to rise. In addition, the skin looks shiny and feels tight.

Part 3 of 3: Knowing the Differences Between Some of the Major Types of Arthritis

Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 9
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 9

Step 1. Find out more about OA

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. OA is triggered by joint damage due to overexertion, obesity, and/or joint injury. OA does not cause inflammation and can be overcome by losing weight, reducing the intensity of activity/exercise so as not to burden the joints, and changing diet (reducing consumption of sugar and preservatives, increasing consumption of water and fresh foods).

  • OA usually affects weight-bearing joints, such as the knees, hips, and spine, but the joints of the hands can also experience OA.
  • The diagnosis of OA can be determined after the patient undergoes a physical examination and x-rays. The thinning of cartilage and the formation of bone spurs are symptoms of OA that can be detected through X-rays.
  • OA can be treated by changing lifestyle and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or painkillers (such as acetaminophen).
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 10
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 10

Step 2. Find out more about RA

Although the risk of developing RA is less than that of OA, the incidence of RA has increased in recent decades. The cause is still questionable, but it seems that the body's immune system becomes chaotic so that it attacks the joints and other body parts. This condition is known as the immune system becomes hyperactive. RA is characterized by inflammation and pain that can heal and recur (called flares).

  • RA usually affects certain joints on both sides of the body at the same time.
  • RA seems to be correlated with lineage. People whose close relatives suffer from RA are at risk for developing RA.
  • Women are more at risk of developing RA than men.
  • Unlike OA, RA can affect children (called juvenile idiopathic arthritis [JIA]).
  • The diagnosis of RA can be determined if the patient has undergone a physical examination, X-rays, and blood tests. Inflammation and deformation of the joints are symptoms of RA that can be detected through X-rays. After undergoing blood tests, 70-80% of patients test positive for RA because their blood contains rheumatoid factor.
  • RA can be treated by taking strong drugs in the NSAID group, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologic response modifiers (biologics).
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 11
Recognize Arthritis Symptoms Step 11

Step 3. Know the difference between gout and OA or RA

Gout occurs because uric acid levels in the blood exceed normal due to consuming foods high in purines. Excessive uric acid in the blood will settle to form sharp crystals that immediately trigger inflammation and pain in the arms, legs, palms, soles of the feet, especially the big toes. Usually, gout attacks last only a few days, but can recur repeatedly.

  • Uric acid crystals will form hard lumps or nodules called tophi around the affected joint. This condition is similar to the symptoms of RA.
  • Some foods contain a lot of purines, such as animal organs (liver, kidney), bacon, shellfish, sardines, anchovies, chicken and meat broth. Excessive drinking of beer and red wine also triggers gout attacks.
  • The diagnosis of gout can be determined after the patient undergoes a physical examination, explains dietary history, X-rays, and blood tests. Gout occurs because the level of uric acid in the blood exceeds normal (called hyperuricemia).
  • Overcome gout by taking NSAIDs or corticosteroids and colchicine (Colcrys) as prescribed by a doctor. Gout can be prevented by changing your diet.


  • Sometimes, an inflamed joint feels warm to the touch because of the build-up of body fluids.
  • A person can experience several types of arthritis at the same time.
  • An effective way to reduce the risk of developing gout and OA is to monitor body weight.
  • Your risk of developing OA is reduced if you protect your joints from injury and avoid repetitive movements.


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