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Treating Arthritis

Arthritis is a term used to describe more than 100 different types of joint inflammation. Arthritis causes stiffness, soreness and swelling where two bones meet, such as the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout.

Symptoms of Arthritis 

Arthritis symptoms usually include:

  • Joint pain or soreness, especially after activity
  • Joint stiffness and decreased ability to bend a joint 
  • Joint swelling and warmth

With osteoarthritis, you may hear clicking and crackling sounds when you bend a joint, such as in your hip or knee. Additional symptoms may include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, eye pain and skin redness.

Causes of Arthritis

Arthritis can be caused by a number of factors, depending on the type.


The main cause of osteoarthritis is wear and tear of cartilage and bone. Cartilage is smooth, flexible tissue that cushions the ends of bones and helps them move freely.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) & Lupus

As autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus cause your immune system to mistake healthy tissue as harmful to your body and attack them, leading to inflammation of the joints. In RA, your body makes antibodies against the lining of your joints. With lupus, your immune system attacks your joints, as well as other parts of the body.


Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in your joints. This condition is most common in men over 40 and can be brought on by a diet rich in foods and beverages containing high levels of purines like game meats, shellfish and alcohol.

Diagnosing & Treating Arthritis at Dignity Health

Your doctor may use these methods to diagnose arthritis and determine which type of arthritis you have: 

  • Arthroscopy, in which a doctor uses a small camera under your skin to look up-close at the damaged joint
  • Blood tests to look for specific antibodies, anemia and signs of inflammation
  • Discussion of your medical history and the symptoms you’re experiencing
  • Joint fluid analysis to examine the contents of the joint space, including inflammatory cells and uric acid crystals
  • Physical exam of your joints, muscle strength, movements and other affected areas of your body
  • X-rays to reveal the extent of any joint and bone damage

Although there is no cure for arthritis, certain medications may ease your joint pain and reduce inflammation, while physical and occupational therapy can help maintain the flexibility of your joints. Keeping your weight down, exercising regularly, and applying cold and warm compresses to trouble spots can also provide relief.

To have all of your questions about arthritis answered, schedule a time to meet with one of our orthopedic specialists or use our Find a Doctor tool to find a physician near you.

Through the Dignity Health network in the Bay Area, patients can find expert orthopedic resources, including treatment for arthritis, in San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Redwood City.