Many rare types of arthritis have different symptoms. Some types can have serious complications if not treated.

For many types of rare arthritis, a person’s symptoms can vary. Although scientists continue to investigate cures, doctors cannot fully treat some rare types. Instead, they aim to manage or reduce a person’s symptoms.

This article outlines several rare types of arthritis, their symptoms, and treatments.

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Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD) is a rare autoimmune condition. People with MCTD have an immune system that affects the connective tissues around their organs.

Scientists do not yet know what causes MCTD. A person can develop MCTD at any age.


MCTD can affect almost any of the body’s organs. Symptoms of MCTD vary but can include:


There is currently no cure for MCTD. Doctors aim to control a person’s symptoms with medication and lifestyle changes, such as changing the way they eat.

A healthcare professional can recommend treatments and ways to manage individual symptoms.

Any person may develop reactive arthritis (ReA) within a few weeks after recovering from a bacterial infection. An infection in the genitals or digestive or urinary tract can trigger ReA.


People with ReA normally have inflammation that comes and goes in one or more areas including their:

  • joints, often in their ankles and knee joints
  • eyes
  • urinary tract

These symptoms often develop over a few days. Other symptoms may include:

  • fatigue
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • small mouth ulcers
  • small, painless ulcers on the penis
  • raised, reddish skin rash bumps
  • thickened nails


A person’s ReA symptoms often disappear naturally within a few weeks or months. Some people may develop chronic or long lasting ReA.

To treat chronic ReA, doctors prescribe people medication and exercise to manage symptoms.

People with septic arthritis (SA), also called infectious arthritis, have inflammation in their joints due to an infection. The infection can be:

  • bacterial, due to bacterial germs
  • fungal
  • viral, due to an infectious virus

People with SA should seek immediate medical attention. Diagnosing and treating SA early is crucial to avoiding joint damage or other serious complications.


Symptoms of infectious arthritis include:

  • intense joint pain
  • fever and chills
  • swelling and redness around a person’s joint
  • being unable to move an affected joint

People usually experience symptoms in only one joint.


Doctors treat SA in the hospital with antibiotics and by draining fluid from the affected joint.

Most people with SA stay in the hospital for about 2 weeks of treatment. However, doctors may discharge some people sooner with a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line and intravenous (IV) antibiotics that a visiting nurse can administer at home or in an outpatient facility. A PICC line is a type of catheter that a healthcare professional can place in order to access the large veins in the chest.

Scleroderma is a condition where a person’s body makes too much collagen, the substance that holds the body together. Localized scleroderma mainly affects the skin. However, systemic scleroderma affects various body parts.

There is currently no cure for scleroderma. Researchers do not yet know the exact cause.


Scleroderma can have many different symptoms. People with systemic scleroderma often have pain and symptoms in many organs.

They may also have arthritis-type symptoms, including:

  • joint stiffness and pain in various joints
  • reduced grip strength
  • reduced dexterity, or skill in using their hands
  • painful inflammation in the tendons and fluids around their joints


Doctors tailor scleroderma treatment to an individual’s symptoms and affected organs. Scleroderma treatment normally includes medication and therapy to manage a person’s symptoms.

People with palindromic rheumatism (PR) have arthritis symptoms that suddenly appear and disappear.

Scientists do not yet know the cause of PR. About half of people with PR develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


People with PR may have symptoms in any joint, but it is most common in their fingers, wrists, and knees. Symptoms include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • stiffness
  • redness in or around their joints
  • fever

PR episodes may last for hours or days or not occur for prolonged periods.


Doctors typically treat PR symptoms with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying antirheumatic medications (DMARDs).

Behçet’s disease (BD) causes long-term or chronic inflammation and swelling in the blood vessels. People with BD have immune systems that attack their blood vessels. Doctors do not know the exact cause of BD.

Scientists believe factors that may play a role in the development of BD include a person’s genetics, their immune system, and environmental factors.


BD can affect any part of a person’s body. BD symptoms may vary but often include:

  • mouth, skin, or genital sores
  • joint pain and swelling in the:
    • knees
    • wrists
    • elbows
    • ankles
  • headaches
  • light sensitivity
  • fatigue
  • muscle aches
  • vision problems
  • digestive problems, including pain, diarrhea, and bleeding
  • stroke
  • memory loss
  • impaired speech, balance, and movement
  • eye inflammation


Doctors prescribe medication to reduce BD inflammation or specific symptoms, including:

  • corticosteroid creams and gels
  • anti-inflammatory medication
  • mouth rinses for mouth ulcers
  • eye drops

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Raynaud’s phenomenon causes a person’s blood vessels to narrow when they are cold or stressed. This restricts blood flow to the extremities for a short period or episode.

People in colder climates or with a family history of Raynaud’s phenomenon are more likely to develop the condition. It also more commonly affects females and those under the age of 30.

Scientists do not know the cause of the most common type, known as primary Raynaud’s phenomenon.


During an episode of Raynaud’s, people have one or more fingers or toes that:

  • turn white or blue
  • feel cold or numb
  • swell, tingle, or throb as blood flow returns

People with severe Raynaud’s may have sores or tissue damage.


Treatment for Raynaud’s phenomenon may include medication to keep the blood vessels open or surgery to destroy nerves that cause the blood vessels to narrow.

Some types of rare arthritis still have no cure. Scientists are working to discover cures and causes for many types.

For most types of rare arthritis, doctors prescribe treatments that manage a person’s symptoms and improve their quality of life.