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What are symptoms of elbow arthritis?

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Arthritis in your elbow can cause swelling, stiffness, and pain that tends to be more intense on the outside of the elbow joint and worsens as you rotate or extend your arm. Elbow arthritis also affects range of motion and may cause the joint to lock or give out during movement. As the condition worsens, you may also feel tingling in your elbow or numbness in your ring and pinky fingers.

While arthritis is common -- almost 55 million American adults have been diagnosed with some form of the disease -- it might not be the cause of your elbow pain. Injuries and issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tendinitis, and ganglion cysts, which are lumps that form next to the joints and tendons, are also common causes of elbow pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common cause of elbow arthritis. The chronic inflammatory disease causes your immune system to attack the lining of your joints, causing pain, swelling, and inflammation. It often affects joints on both sides of the body. So it could be the culprit if both elbows, not just one, ache.

Osteoarthritis is more common in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips, but it can also affect the elbow. Osteoarthritis happens because of the loss of cartilage that cushions the joints, causing the bones to rub together. That can come from too much wear and tear on the elbow joint from repetitive movements, such as from sports or work. It can also happen because of previous injuries, including a dislocation or fracture, which can wear down the cartilage and cause osteoarthritis.

Gout is another possibility. It happens when uric acid builds up in the bloodstream, leading to deposits of sharp crystals in the tissues and joints. You’d feel intense pain and swelling in the elbow joint.

There are many kinds of arthritis, and there are other possible causes. Your doctor can diagnose what’s causing your elbow pain.

SOURCES:

Cedars-Sinai: “Arthritis of the Elbow.”

American Academy of Osteopathic Surgeons: “Osteoarthritis of the Elbow.”

Arthritis Foundation.

CDC: “Arthritis-Related Statistics.”

American College of Rheumatology: “Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

UpToDate: “Evaluation of elbow pain in adults,” “Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of osteoarthritis.”

Reviewed by Gabriela Pichardo on May 04, 2020

SOURCES:

Cedars-Sinai: “Arthritis of the Elbow.”

American Academy of Osteopathic Surgeons: “Osteoarthritis of the Elbow.”

Arthritis Foundation.

CDC: “Arthritis-Related Statistics.”

American College of Rheumatology: “Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

UpToDate: “Evaluation of elbow pain in adults,” “Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of osteoarthritis.”

Reviewed by Gabriela Pichardo on May 04, 2020

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