There are probably many genes that make people more likely to have arthritis. Research has found some of these genes. If you have the gene linked with arthritis, something in your environment—such as a virus or injury—may trigger the condition.

Different Types of Arthritis

There are probably many genes that make people more likely to have arthritis. Research has found some of these genes. If you have the gene linked with arthritis, something in your environment—such as a virus or injury—may trigger the condition.

Points To Remember About Arthritis

Overview of Arthritis

"Arthritis" literally means joint inflammation. Although joint inflammation is a symptom or sign rather than a specific diagnosis, the term arthritis is often used to refer to any disorder that affects the joints. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee.

There are different types of arthritis. In some diseases in which arthritis occurs, other organs, such as your eyes, heart, or skin, can also be affected.

Fortunately, current treatments allow most people with arthritis to lead active and productive lives.

What causes arthritis?

There are probably many genes that make people more likely to have arthritis. Research has found some of these genes.

If you have the gene linked with arthritis, something in your environment—such as a virus or injury—may trigger the condition.

What are the types of arthritis?

There are several types of arthritis. Common ones include:

Arthritis is seen with other conditions. These include:

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Symptoms of arthritis can include:

These symptoms may also be signs of other illnesses.

What causes arthritis?

Some genes have been identified in certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis. People with osteoarthritis may have inherited cartilage weakness.

If you have the gene, something in your environment may trigger the condition. For example, repeated joint injury may lead to osteoarthritis.

Is there a test for arthritis?

To diagnosis you with arthritis or another rheumatic disease, your doctor may:

How is arthritis treated?

There are many treatments that can help relieve pain and help you live with arthritis. You should talk to your doctor about the best treatments for you, which can include:

Living with arthritis

There are many things you can do to help you live with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, including:

Ankylosing spondylitis

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Points To Remember About Ankylosing Spondylitis

An anatomical illustration depicting front and sideviews of the spine. The cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacrum, coccyx and intervertebrals disks are labeled.

Side and back views of the spine

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. AS often involves redness, heat, swelling, and pain in the spine or in the joint where the bottom of the spine (sacrum) joins the pelvic bone (ilium).

In some people, AS can also affect the shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, and feet. It can also affect areas where the tendons and ligaments attach to the bones. Sometimes it can affect the eyes, bowel, and very rarely, the heart and lungs.

Many people with AS have mild back pain that comes and goes. Others have severe pain that doesn’t go away. Sometimes the spine becomes stiff. In the worst cases, the swelling can cause two or more bones of the spine to fuse. This may stiffen the rib cage, making it hard to take a deep breath.

Who gets ankylosing spondylitis?

A combination of genes may make it more likely you will get ankylosing spondylitis (AS). The environment also probably plays a role. Men are about twice more likely than women to get AS.

What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

The cause of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is unknown. It’s likely that genes (passed from parents to children) and the environment both play a role. The main gene associated with the risk for AS is called HLA-B27. Having the gene doesn’t mean you will get AS. Fewer than 1 of 20 people with HLA-B27 gets AS. Scientists recently discovered two more genes (IL23R and ERAP1) that, along with HLA-B27, make it more likely you will get AS.

Is there a test for ankylosing spondylitis?

To test for ankylosing spondylitis, your doctor will need:

How is ankylosing spondylitis treated?

There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Some treatments help symptoms and may keep the disease from getting worse. In most cases, your treatment will include medicine, exercise, and a healthy diet. In some cases, surgery can repair some joint damage.

Who treats ankylosing spondylitis?

A rheumatologist usually diagnosis you with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). This is a doctor trained to treat arthritis and related conditions. Because AS can affect different parts of your body, you may need to see more than one doctor. Some other doctors who treat AS symptoms are:

Living with ankylosing spondylitis

These are important things you can do:

Arthritis: About Gout

Points To Remember About Gout

Overview of Gout

Gout is a kind of arthritis that causes attacks of pain and stiffness in your joints, especially your big toe. Gout is caused by crystals of a substance called uric acid building up in your joints. It can also cause lumps under the skin and kidney stones.

For some people, gout progresses through several stages:

Who Gets Gout?

Millions of people get gout. It is especially common in men between the ages of 40 and 50. Women rarely develop gout before menopause.

You are more likely to get it if you:

Some health problems can also increase your risk of getting gout, including:

Some medications can increase your risk of getting gout, including:

Symptoms of Gout

Gout causes pain in your joints, often in the big toe. Many people get their first attack of gout in one of their big toes, but it can also affect other joints in your feet, arms, and legs. In addition to pain, your joint may feel swollen, red, warm, and stiff.

Gout attacks often start suddenly at night. Intense pain and swelling may be bad enough to wake you up. Gout attacks are often triggered by stressful events, alcohol, drugs, or another illness.

Usually, a gout attack will get better in three to 10 days, even without treatment. After that, you may not have another attack for months or even years. Over time, however, your attacks may last longer and happen more often.

Causes of Gout

Gout is caused when a substance in your body called uric acid forms crystals in your joints. This causes pain, swelling, and other symptoms.

Uric acid comes from purines, which are found in your body’s tissues and many foods. When purines break down, they become uric acid. Uric acid normally dissolves in your blood and passes out of your body in urine. When too much of it builds up in your blood, however, it can form the crystals in your joints that cause gout.

Things that can cause uric acid to build up in the blood include:

Diagnosis of Gout

Gout can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to several different conditions. Your doctor may test your blood to see if you have high levels of uric acid. They may also draw a sample of fluid from one of your painful joints to look for crystals of uric acid.

Treatment of Gout

Proper treatment can reduce the pain from gout attacks, help prevent future attacks, and prevent damage to your joints.

Your doctor may recommend medications to treat your pain. These may include:

Your doctor may also recommend diet and lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, since being overweight puts you at a greater risk of gout attacks, and cutting back on alcohol and foods that are high in purines.

Living With Gout

In addition to taking medications recommended by your doctor, you can make some changes to your diet to help you have fewer gout attacks. As always, talk with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications.

Your doctor may recommend that you lose weight, if you are overweight, or drink less alcohol. You can also avoid eating foods with lots of purines, since they can increase your uric acid levels. Foods that are high in purines include:

Prevention of Gout

Your risk of getting gout is determined by a number of factors, including genetics, your age and sex, your environment, and what you eat. Here are some things that may lower your risk of getting gout:

Prognosis of Gout

Gout is one of the most controllable forms of arthritis. Treatment and dietary changes can help many people avoid frequent gout attacks and reduce their severity. You may have an acute attack followed by months or even years without any symptoms.

Proper treatment can also help you avoid a condition called chronic tophaceous gout, which can develop over 10 years or so and cause permanent damage to your joints and kidneys. Talk to your doctor about how best to manage your condition.

Research Progress Related to Gout

NIAMS continues to support research on treatments for gout, including:

Juvenile Arthritis

Doctor and patient.

Points To Remember About Juvenile Arthritis

What is juvenile arthritis?

Juvenile arthritis is the term used to describe arthritis in children. Children can get arthritis just like adults. Arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints. A joint is where two or more bones are joined together. Arthritis causes

The most common type of arthritis in children is called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (idiopathic means “from unknown causes”). There are several other forms of arthritis affecting children.

Juvenile arthritis is a rheumatic disease, or one that causes loss of function due to an inflamed supporting structure or structures of the body. Some rheumatic diseases also can involve internal organs.

Who gets juvenile arthritis?

Juvenile arthritis affects children of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. About 294,000 American children under age 18 have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions.

What are the symptoms of juvenile arthritis?

The most common symptoms of juvenile arthritis are joint swelling, pain, and stiffness that don’t go away. Usually it affects the knees, hands, and feet, and it’s worse in the morning or after a nap. Other signs can include:

Most children with arthritis have times when the symptoms get better or go away (remission) and other times when they get worse (flare).

Types of Juvenile Arthritis

There are seven separate subtypes of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, each with distinct symptoms. However, with every subtype, a child will have arthritis symptoms of joint pain, swelling, tenderness, warmth, or stiffness that last for more than 6 continuous weeks.

The subtypes are:

What are the symptoms of juvenile arthritis?

The most common symptoms of juvenile arthritis are joint swelling, pain, and stiffness that don’t go away. Usually it affects the knees, hands, and feet, and it’s worse in the morning or after a nap. Other signs can include:

Most children with arthritis have times when the symptoms get better or go away (remission) and other times when they get worse (flare).

Causes of Juvenile Arthritis

Most forms of juvenile arthritis are autoimmune disorders in which the body’s immune system – which normally helps to fight off bacteria or viruses – mistakenly attacks some of its own healthy cells and tissues. The result is inflammation, marked by redness, heat, pain, and swelling. Inflammation can cause joint damage.

Doctors do not know why the immune system attacks healthy tissues in children who develop juvenile arthritis. Scientists suspect that it is a two-step process. First, something in a child’s genetic makeup gives him or her a tendency to develop juvenile arthritis; then an environmental factor, such as a virus, triggers the development of the disease.

Not all cases of juvenile arthritis are autoimmune, however. Recent research has shown that some people, such as many with systemic arthritis, have what is called an autoinflammatorycondition. Although the two terms sound similar, the disease processes behind autoimmune and autoinflammatory disorders are different.

Autoimmune Disorders

When the immune system is working properly, foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses provoke the body to produce proteins called antibodies. Antibodies attach to these invaders so the immune system can recognize and destroy them. In an autoimmune reaction, the antibodies attach to the body’s own healthy tissues by mistake, signaling the body to attack them. Because they target the self, these proteins are called autoantibodies.

Autoinflammatory Disorders

Like autoimmune disorders, autoinflammatory conditions also cause inflammation. And like autoimmune disorders, they also involve an overactive immune system. However, autoinflammation is not caused by autoantibodies. Instead, autoinflammation involves a more primitive part of the immune system that, in healthy people, causes white blood cells to destroy harmful substances. When this system goes awry, it causes inflammation for unknown reasons. Besides inflammation, autoinflammatory diseases often cause fever and rashes.

Is there a test for juvenile arthritis?

There is no easy way a doctor can tell if a child has juvenile arthritis. Doctors usually suspect arthritis when a child has symptoms of:

To be sure that it is juvenile arthritis, doctors may:

Diagnosis of Juvenile Arthritis

For a doctor to diagnose your child with juvenile arthritis, symptoms must have started before age 16. Doctors usually suspect juvenile arthritis, along with several other possible conditions, when they see children with persistent joint pain or swelling, unexplained skin rashes, and fever associated with swelling of lymph nodes or inflammation of internal organs. A doctor also considers a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis in children with an unexplained limp or excessive clumsiness.

There is no single test that a doctor can use to diagnose juvenile arthritis. A doctor will carefully examine your child and consider his or her medical history and the results of several tests that help confirm juvenile arthritis or rule out other conditions. Specific findings or problems that relate to the joints are the main factors that go into making a juvenile arthritis diagnosis.


When diagnosing juvenile arthritis, a doctor must consider not only the symptoms your child has, but also the length of time these symptoms have been present. Joint swelling or other joint changes that the doctor can see must be present continuously for at least 6 weeks.

You can help your child’s doctor correctly diagnose juvenile arthritis by keeping a record of your child’s symptoms and changes in the joints, noting when they first appeared and when they are worse or better.

Family History

It is very rare for more than one member of a family to have juvenile arthritis. But children with a family member who has juvenile arthritis are at a slightly increased risk of developing it as well. 

Research shows that juvenile arthritis is also more likely in families with a history of any autoimmune disease. One study showed that families of children with juvenile arthritis are more likely to have a member with an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or thyroid inflammation (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) than are families of children without juvenile arthritis. For that reason, having an autoimmune disease in your family may raise the doctor’s suspicions that your child’s joint symptoms are caused by juvenile arthritis or some other autoimmune disease.

Lab Tests

Lab tests, usually blood tests, cannot alone provide the doctor with a clear diagnosis. But a doctor can use these tests to help rule out other conditions and classify the type of juvenile arthritis that your child has. A doctor may order blood tests for:


Your child’s doctor will order x-rays if he or she suspects injury to the bone or unusual bone development. Early in the disease, some x-rays can show changes in soft tissue. In general, x-rays are more useful later in the disease, when bones may be affected.

Other Tests

Because there are many causes of joint pain and swelling, the doctor may use other lab tests to help rule out other conditions before diagnosing juvenile arthritis. Some of these conditions include:

How is juvenile arthritis treated?

Doctors who treat arthritis in children will try to make sure your child can remain physically active. They also try to make sure your child can stay involved in social activities and have an overall good quality of life.

Doctors can prescribe treatments to reduce swelling, maintain joint movement, and relieve pain. They also try to prevent, identify, and treat problems that result from the arthritis. Most children with arthritis need a blend of treatments – some treatments include medicines. Drugs@FDA is a searchable catalog of FDA-approved drug products, see:

Researchers are also trying to improve current treatments and find new medicines that will work better with fewer side effects.

Who treats juvenile arthritis?

A team approach is the best way to treat juvenile arthritis. It is best if a doctor trained to treat these types of diseases in children, called a pediatric rheumatologist, manages your child’s care. However, many children’s doctors and “adult” rheumatologists also treat children with arthritis.

Other members of your child’s health care team may include:

Living with juvenile arthritis

Juvenile Arthritis Affects the Whole Family

Juvenile arthritis can strain your child’s ability to take part in social and after-school activities, and it can make schoolwork more difficult. But, all family members can help the child both physically and emotionally by:

Exercise Is Key to Reducing Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis

Pain sometimes limits what children with juvenile arthritis can do. However, exercise is key to reducing the symptoms of arthritis and maintaining function and range of motion of the joints. Ask your child’s health care team for exercise guidelines.

Most children with arthritis can take part in physical activities and certain sports when their symptoms are under control. Swimming is a good activity because it uses many joints and muscles without putting weight on the joints.

During a disease flare, your child’s doctor may advise your child to limit certain activities. It will depend on the joints involved. Once the flare is over, your child can return to his or her normal activities.

Arthritis: Osteoarthritis

Points To Remember About Osteoarthritis

Overview of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is seen especially among older people. It is sometimes called degenerative joint disease.

A Joint with Severe Osteoarthritis A joint with severe osteoarthritis (representation)

People with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and stiffness. The most commonly affected joints are in the hands (ends of the fingers and thumbs), neck, lower back, knees, and hips. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis does not affect the skin, lungs, eyes, or blood vessels. It can also occur in only one joint or can affect a joint on one side of the body much more severely.

Osteoarthritis affects each person differently. For some people, osteoarthritis is relatively mild and interferes little with day-to-day life. For others, it causes significant pain and disability. Joint damage usually develops gradually over years, although it could worsen quickly in some people.

What happens in osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis damages cartilage, the tissue that covers the ends where two bones meet to form a joint. This allows the bones to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of joint motion. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, small bone growths, called osteophytes or bone spurs, may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can also break off and float inside the joint space. This causes more pain and damage.

Who Gets Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis becomes more common with age. However, younger people can also develop it, usually as the result of a joint injury, an abnormal joint structure, or a genetic defect in joint cartilage.

Before age 45, more men than women have osteoarthritis. After age 45, it is more common in women. It is also more likely to occur in people who are overweight and in those with jobs that stress particular joints.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Early in the disease, your joints may ache after physical work or exercise. Later on, joint pain may become more persistent. You may also experience joint stiffness, especially when you first wake up in the morning or have been in one position for a long time.

Joints often affected by osteoarthritis include:

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis usually happens gradually over time. Some things that might make it more likely include:

Tests for Osteoarthritis

Although there is no single test for osteoarthritis, your doctor may do the following to diagnosis you with the condition:

Treatment of Osteoarthritis

Treatment for osteoarthritis can include medications or surgery to reduce pain and improve functioning.

Who Treats Osteoarthritis?

Treating osteoarthritis requires a team effort involving you and several types of health care professionals. These may include:

Living With Osteoarthritis

There are many things you can do to help you live with osteoarthritis, including:

Research Progress Related to Osteoarthritis

Recent research on osteoarthritis has focused on:

Arthritis: Psoriatic Arthritis

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Points To Remember About Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis can occur in people who have psoriasis (scaly red and white skin patches). It affects the joints and areas where tissues attach to bone.

The joints most often affected are:

Who gets psoriatic arthritis?

Anyone with psoriasis (scaly red and white skin patches) can have psoriatic arthritis.

It is more common in whites than in African Americans or Asian Americans. The disease typically begins between the ages of 30 and 50, but can begin in childhood .

What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:

What causes psoriatic arthritis?

No one knows what causes psoriatic arthritis. Researchers believe that both genes and environment are involved.

Is there a test for psoriatic arthritis?

If you have psoriasis and start to develop joint pain, it’s important to see your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment of psoriatic arthritis can help prevent joint damage.

Although there is no test for psoriatic arthritis, your doctor may do the following to diagnosis you with the condition:

How is psoriatic arthritis treated?

Psoriatic arthritis is treated by medications. The type of medication depends on how severe the disease is.

Who treats psoriatic arthritis?

Doctors who diagnose and treat psoriatic arthritis include:

Arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Points To Remember About Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that affects your joints. Joints are where two or more bones join together, such as at your knees, hips, or shoulders. Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. If joints on one side of your body have rheumatoid arthritis, usually those joints on the other side do too. This disease often occurs in more than one joint. It can affect any joint in the body.

If you have this disease, you also may feel sick and tired, and sometimes get fevers.

Who gets rheumatoid arthritis?

Anyone can get this disease, though it occurs more often in women. Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in middle age and is common in older people. But children and young adults can also get it.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which can range from mild to severe, include:

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

Doctors don't know the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis. They know that with this type of arthritis, a person's immune system attacks his or her own body tissues. The immune system normally attacks invaders to the body, such as a cold virus or bacteria. Researchers are learning many things about why and how this happens. Things that may cause rheumatoid arthritis are:

Is there a test for rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can be hard to diagnose because:

To diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, doctors use medical history, a physical exam, x-rays and other imaging tests, and lab tests.

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?

Doctors have many ways to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment may involve:

The goals of treatment are to:


Most people with rheumatoid arthritis take medicine. Drugs can be used for pain relief, to reduce swelling, and to stop the disease from getting worse. What a doctor prescribes depends on:

How is it treated?


There are many kinds of surgery for people with a lot of joint damage. Surgery may:

Surgery is not for everyone. Talk with your doctor to decide what is best for you.

Regular Doctor Visits

Regular medical care is important so doctors can:

Complementary Therapies

Special diets, vitamins, and other complementary therapies are sometimes suggested to treat rheumatoid arthritis. 

Many of these treatments are not harmful, but they may not be well tested or have any real benefits.

Ask your doctor about things you can do to manage your pain, such as exercise programs, support groups, and education classes. Before starting any complementary therapy, talk with your doctor to make sure it isn’t harmful.

Who treats rheumatoid arthritis?

Several types of health care professionals may treat you, including: 

Living with rheumatoid arthritis

With rheumatoid arthritis, you can still lead a full life. Besides going to your doctor and therapists regularly, you can also do these activities to help reduce your symptoms.

Joint Care

Look for ways to reduce stress on your joints. Some people find wearing a splint around a painful joint for a short time helps. Talk with your doctor to see if a splint may work for you. In addition, some special equipment can help such as a zipper puller or long-handled shoe horn.


Keep a good balance between rest and activity. Try to take frequent breaks, especially when your symptoms are bothering you.

Lowering Stress

Try to lower your stress by taking the time to relax, doing hobbies you enjoy, or joining a support group. Support groups can reduce your stress by helping you to:

A Healthy Diet

Eat a healthy diet which will help you manage your weight and get a variety of nutrients for overall health.

Other medical problems related to rheumatoid arthritis

You may also experience other health problems as a result of your rheumatoid arthritis. Be sure to talk with your doctor if any of these occur.

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis may also have:

Other effects that occur less often include:

Very rarely, people may have inflammation of their:

What People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Need to Know About Osteoporosis

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, a disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. When someone has rheumatoid arthritis, the membranes around his or her joints become inflamed and release enzymes that cause the surrounding cartilage and bone to wear away. In severe cases, other tissues and body organs also can be affected.

Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis often experience pain, swelling, and stiffness in their joints, especially those in the hands and feet. Motion can be limited in the affected joints, curtailing one’s ability to accomplish even the most basic everyday tasks. About one-quarter of those with rheumatoid arthritis develop nodules (bumps) that grow under the skin, usually close to the joints. Fatigue, anemia (low red blood cell count), neck pain, and dry eyes and dry mouth also can occur in individuals with the disease.

Scientists estimate that about 1.5 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis.1 The disease occurs in all racial and ethnic groups, but affects two to three times as many women as men. Rheumatoid arthritis is more commonly found in older individuals, although the disease typically begins in middle age. Children and young adults can also be affected.

1Helmick CG, Felson DT, Lawrence RC, Gabriel S, Hirsch R, Kwoh CK, et al.; National Arthritis Data Workgroup. Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States. Part I. Arthritis and Rheumatism, 58(1): 15–25, January 2008.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become less dense and more likely to fracture. Fractures from osteoporosis can result in significant pain and disability. In the United States, more than 53 million people either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass.

Risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:

Osteoporosis often can be prevented. It is known as a silent disease because, if undetected, bone loss can progress for many years without symptoms until a fracture occurs. Osteoporosis has been called a childhood disease with old age consequences because building healthy bones in youth helps prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life. However, it is never too late to adopt new habits for healthy bones.

The Link Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoporosis

Studies have found an increased risk of bone loss and fracture in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. People with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk for osteoporosis for many reasons. To begin with, the glucocorticoid medications often prescribed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can trigger significant bone loss. In addition, pain and loss of joint function caused by the disease can result in inactivity, further increasing osteoporosis risk. Studies also show that bone loss in rheumatoid arthritis may occur as a direct result of the disease. The bone loss is most pronounced in areas immediately surrounding the affected joints. Of concern is the fact that women, a group already at increased risk for osteoporosis, are two to three times more likely than men to have rheumatoid arthritis as well.

Osteoporosis Management Strategies

Strategies for preventing and treating osteoporosis in people with rheumatoid arthritis are not significantly different from the strategies for those who do not have the disease.

Nutrition. A well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products; dark green, leafy vegetables; and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. Supplements can help ensure that you get adequate amounts of calcium each day, especially in people with a proven milk allergy. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily calcium intake of 1,000 mg (milligrams) for men and women up to age 50. Women over age 50 and men over age 70 should increase their intake to 1,200 mg daily.

Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver. Many people, especially those who are older, may need vitamin D supplements to achieve the recommended intake of 600 to 800 IU (International Units) each day.

Exercise. Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. The best activity for your bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces you to work against gravity. Some examples include walking, climbing stairs, weight training, and dancing.

Exercising can be challenging for people with rheumatoid arthritis, and it needs to be balanced with rest when the disease is active. However, regular exercise, such as walking, can help prevent bone loss and, by enhancing balance and flexibility, can reduce the likelihood of falling and breaking a bone. Exercise is also important for preserving joint mobility.

Healthy lifestyle. Smoking is bad for bones as well as the heart and lungs. Women who smoke tend to go through menopause earlier, resulting in earlier reduction in levels of the bone-preserving hormone estrogen and triggering earlier bone loss. In addition, smokers may absorb less calcium from their diets. Alcohol also can have a negative effect on bone health. Those who drink heavily are more prone to bone loss and fracture, because of both poor nutrition and increased risk of falling.

Bone density test. A bone mineral density (BMD) test measures bone density in various parts of the body. This safe and painless test can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs and can predict one’s chances of fracturing in the future. The BMD test can help determine whether medication should be considered. People with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly those who have been receiving glucocorticoid therapy for 2 months or more, should talk to their doctor about whether a BMD test is appropriate.

Medication. Like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis has no cure. However, medications are available to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Several medications are available for people with rheumatoid arthritis who have or are at risk for glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.

The NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center is supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases with contributions from:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Would you like to order publications on bone disorders to be mailed to you? Visit our online order form.

Arthritis: Reactive Arthritis

Overview of Reactive Arthritis 

Reactive arthritis is a type of spondyloarthritis, a group of disorders that can cause inflammation throughout the body (especially in the spine). Reactive arthritis is associated with inflammation of the joints, eyes, and urinary tract and its associated genital structures. These symptoms may occur alone, together, or not at all. Any of these symptoms may be so mild that you may not notice them.

The symptoms of reactive arthritis usually last several months, although symptoms can return or develop into a long-term disease in a small percentage of people.

Reactive arthritis is not contagious; that is, a person with the disorder cannot pass the arthritis on to someone else. However, the bacteria that can trigger reactive arthritis can be passed from person to person.

Most people with reactive arthritis recover fully from the initial flare of symptoms. They may have mild arthritis symptoms that last up to a year, although symptoms don’t usually interfere with daily activities. Some people will have long-term, mild arthritis. A few patients will have long-term, severe arthritis that is difficult to control with treatment and may cause joint damage.

Some patients will re-develop symptoms, such as back pain and arthritis, after the initial flare has disappeared. These relapses may be caused by reinfection.

What happens in reactive arthritis?

In many patients, reactive arthritis is triggered by an infection in the bladder, urethra, or vagina that is often transmitted through sexual contact. Another form of reactive arthritis is caused by an intestinal infection from eating food or handling substances that are contaminated with bacteria.

Points To Remember About Reactive Arthritis

Who gets reactive arthritis?

Men between ages 20 and 40 are most likely to get reactive arthritis. Men are also more likely than women to get the form that is caused by a bacteria passed along during sex. Women and men are at equal risk of getting the disease because of bacteria in food. Women with reactive arthritis often have milder symptoms than men.

Symptoms of Reactive Arthritis

Symptoms of reactive arthritis can include:

Causes of Reactive Arthritis

In many patients, reactive arthritis is triggered by a bacterial infection in the bladder, urethra, or vagina that is often transmitted through sexual contact. Another form of reactive arthritis is caused by an intestinal infection from eating food or handling substances that are contaminated with bacteria. Reactive arthritis typically begins within two to four weeks after infection.

Doctors do not know exactly why some people exposed to these bacteria develop reactive arthritis and others do not. One gene, human leukocyte antigen (HLA) B27, increases a person’s chance of developing reactive arthritis. However, inheriting the HLA B27 gene does not necessarily mean you will get reactive arthritis.

A person with the disorder cannot pass the arthritis on to someone else. However, the bacteria that can trigger reactive arthritis can be passed from person to person.

Is there a test for reactive arthritis?

There is no specific lab test to confirm that you have reactive arthritis. Doctors sometimes find it difficult to diagnose. Tests the doctor may order include:

Diagnosis of Reactive Arthritis

Although there is no single test for reactive arthritis, your doctor may do the following to diagnosis you with the condition:

Treatment of Reactive Arthritis

Although there is no cure for reactive arthritis, certain medications can relieve symptoms of the disorder:

Who Treats Reactive Arthritis?

Diagnosing and treating reactive arthritis requires a team effort involving you and several types of health care professionals. These may include:

Living With Reactive Arthritis

Exercise can reduce joint pain and stiffness and increase flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance. Exercise also helps people lose weight, which reduces stress on painful joints. You should speak to your doctor about a safe, well-rounded exercise program, which could include:

Research Progress Related to Reactive Arthritis

Researchers continue to investigate the causes of reactive arthritis and study treatments for the condition. Recent research has explored:


For more info

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics

American College of Rheumatology

Arthritis Foundation

Spondylitis Association of America

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This publication contains information about medications used to treat the health condition discussed here. When this publication was developed, we included the most up-to-date (accurate) information available.

For additional information on specific medications, visit Drugs@FDA at Drugs@FDA is a searchable catalog of FDA-approved drug products.

NIH Pub. No. 16-7904

Last Reviewed2016-04

Source: NIAMS, NIH