You might think of arthritis as an “old person’s disease,” but the reality is that it can affect people of all ages. How can you know if your aches are a sign of this common condition?
Across the United States, arthritis affects one in six Americans. But in some states, like Tennessee, that number is even higher—in Tennessee, almost 30% of adults have some type of arthritis.
With a condition that common, it’s likely that you or someone you love will be affected at some point in your lifetime. That’s why David Guthrie, MD, family medicine physician with West Tennessee Medical Group, is taking a few minutes in today’s blog to share some insight about the condition.
What Is Arthritis?
Let’s first put a definition with the condition. “Arthritis” means joint inflammation, and the term is used in reference to multiple disorders that adversely affect the joints, which are the connectors between two bones.
These disorders include:
- Osteoarthritis, which is the most common type
- Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the joints
- Juvenile arthritis, which is arthritis diagnosed in children
- Infectious arthritis, which occurs due to an infection that spreads to the joints
- Psoriatic arthritis, which occurs in people who have psoriasis
- Gout, which occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the body
Each type can lead to pain and discomfort in the joints, but the disorders differ in their causes and in how they manifest in the body.
Could My Symptoms Be Arthritis?
We all suffer aches and pains at some point. It’s a normal part of life. But when your pain lingers or worsens over time, it can be a sign of arthritis.
Arthritis can lead to many different symptoms, but there are four that are most common—pain, swelling, stiffness and difficulty moving a joint. Let’s break these down a little further:
Pain related to arthritis may come and go or it may stick around for a while. It can also occur when you’re sitting still or when you’re moving. It may be limited to a specific joint or affect multiple joints in the body.
Swelling is also common with many types of arthritis. The area surrounding a joint may become red and swollen, and it may even feel warm to the touch.
Stiffness is common for those with arthritis, particularly when they shift from one activity to another. You may feel stiffness first thing in the morning after waking up or after sitting for a period of time and then standing up.
Difficulty moving a joint is an indication that arthritis may be to blame. Normal aches and pains should not interfere with activities of daily living, so when simply moving around or standing up becomes difficult and painful, it could be arthritis.
In some cases, people with arthritis may experience fever, weight loss, breathing difficulties and even a rash. While symptoms are usually limited to areas around a joint, with some types of arthritis, symptoms may also affect organs.
How Is Arthritis Treated?
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of arthritis, your primary care provider can help you find a diagnosis and determine next steps. During an appointment, your doctor will review your symptoms along with information about your overall health and wellness, your lifestyle, and your personal and family medical history.
He or she will also take a look at the area(s) of your body affected and potentially order additional testing to rule out other causes and help determine the source of your discomfort.
If your provider determines that you have arthritis, there are multiple treatment options designed to help alleviate discomfort, limit symptoms, and improve your quality of life. The type of treatment that’s right for you will depend on your symptoms, the severity of your symptoms and how much your daily life is impacted.
Your doctor may recommend oral or injected medications to relieve pain or prevent further damage, physical therapy or surgical options in the most severe cases. Because arthritis can flare up in certain situations, he or she may also recommend that you implement lifestyle changes, including losing weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
Those healthy habits can also help lower your risk of developing arthritis in the first place, since being overweight or obese is a risk factor for the condition.
Wondering whether your symptoms could be arthritis? Talk with your doctor about what you’re experiencing. FIND A PROVIDER HERE TO SCHEDULE AN IN-PERSON OR TELEHEALTH APPOINTMENT.