Your joints ache much of the time, you’re approaching that “certain age”, and you find yourself wondering lately, “How can I tell if my symptoms are caused by arthritis?”
You’re not alone, and according to the Arthritis Foundation, that is a very common question! It seems a lot of people think they might have arthritis, but often fail to mention it to their doctors. Maybe they think that achy joints are just a normal part of aging and there is nothing their doctors can do, but that is actually a myth. The fact is, your doctor is the only one who can confirm whether your aches and pains are arthritis-related or not.
Symptoms of Arthritis
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, your signs and symptoms may include:
- Decreased range of motion
Who is at Risk?
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Family history. Some types of arthritis run in families, so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder.
- Age. The risk of many types of arthritis — including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout — increases with age.
- Your sex. Women are more likely than are men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout, another type of arthritis, are men.
- Previous joint injury. People who have injured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint.
- Obesity. Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine.
The Most Common Forms of Arthritis
You’ve probably heard the terms “osteoarthritis” and “rheumatoid arthritis”. The differences between the two may be subtle since both affect the joints.
In general, osteoarthritis tends to affect the larger joints in the body like the hips and the knees, but it can also affect the lower back and the neck as well as smaller joints in the fingers and toes.
Rheumatoid arthritis tends to begin in the smaller joints of the fingers and toes. It also tends to be symmetrical. For example, if your left thumb swells and becomes painful, your right one will probably follow suit. The most common symptom is stiffness, especially in the morning. It may take a while for your joints to loosen up and start working again. Rheumatoid arthritis can often be systemic, meaning that it can eventually affect your entire body. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause non-joint injuries like shortness of breath, fever and chest pain — things that are symptomatic of many other conditions!
Don’t Neglect Your Joint Health
We depend on our joints to allow us to perform everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, reaching for things, bending, and so much more. That is why it is unwise to ignore your symptoms and simply write them off as a “side effect” of the aging process. Since arthritis is progressive, it only gets worse with time, and the longer you wait to see a doctor, the more you risk permanent joint damage. Seeing your doctor to address ongoing joint pain is crucial, no matter what your age!
The team of specialists at Hampton Roads Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat joint pain, restoring mobility and helping you return to higher quality of life. We have locations in Newport News, Williamsburg and Yorktown, Virginia. Contact us today for an appointment!
If you would like more information, Dr. Baddar will be presenting on this topic Tuesday, March 14th. Please visit our community event page for more information and to register.