Arthritis and gout
Emergency department factsheet
adultWhat is arthritis?
Arthritis literally means ‘inflammation of a joint’. There are
many types of arthritis, and most cause pain, swelling, limited
movement and stiffness.
In normal bones, the ends are lined by cartilage, which provides
‘cushioning’ and allows a joint to move freely. The joint is
enclosed in a capsule containing fluid, which provides
nutrition, and lubricates the joint. Arthritis can occur when
there is something wrong with this system.
What causes arthritis?
There are at least 150 types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and
Rheumatoid arthritis are most common.
• Osteoarthritis – is essentially caused by ‘wear and tear’,
where a breakdown of the cartilage allows the bones to rub
together. This can be painful. It usually occurs later in life
and affects the hips and knees, although it can also cause
problems in the spine, shoulders, hands or any other joint.
• Rheumatoid arthritis – is less common but more severe.
It occurs when your immune system attacks the tissue lining
the joints, and can lead to pain, swelling, stiffness and joint
deformity. The joints most affected are the hands, wrists,
shoulders, knees or feet. The cause is not known. Women
are affected more than men.
What are the symptoms?
All types of arthritis can result in pain, stiffness and
inflammation (a hot, swollen and tender joint). Arthritis can
affect you at any age.
The severity, location and progression of arthritis can vary
greatly from person to person. For many people the cause is
not known. You may or may not have another family member
with arthritis. Rheumatoid pain is often worse in the morning,
while osteoarthritis results in stiffness at end of day. Gout can
occur at any time.
What is gout?
Gout (also called metabolic arthritis) occurs when uric acid
crystals form in and around joints, causing sudden and intense
pain, redness and swelling. It mainly affects men over 40 and
is usually found in the big toe, but can occur in almost any