Arthritis Symptoms and Diagnosis

Common symptoms sufferers may experience

  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Early morning stiffness (which sometimes, though by no means always, can wear off once the person has started to move around a bit and "warmed up" the stiff joints)
  • Warmth around a joint
  • Redness of the skin around a joint
  • Reduced ability to move the joint
  • Unexplained weight loss, fever, or weakness that occurs with joint pain


Making a diagnosis of arthritis often includes evaluating symptoms, a physical examination, and X-rays, which are important to show the extent of damage to the joint. Blood tests and other laboratory tests may help to determine the type of arthritis.

A physical examination may show that fluid is collecting around the joint (this is called an effusion.) The joint may be tender when gently pressed, and may exhibit warmth and redness, more typically in infectious arthritis and autoimmune arthritis. The affected joints may show limited range of motion, being painful or difficult to move in some directions. In some autoimmune forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, the joints may become deformed if the disease goes for too long without being treated.

Tests vary depending on the suspected cause. They may include blood or urine tests, as well as joint X-rays. In septic arthritis, joint fluid is removed from the joint with a needle and examined for the presence of infection.