6 Symptoms of Arthritis You Should Not Ignore
Diagnosing arthritis isn't always a straightforward proposition for a physician. Although no cure exists for arthritis, prompt treatment can help minimize the pain and other symptoms. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Pain in the Joints
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is characterized primarily by pain in the joints. Pay attention to joint pain, noticing if it's exacerbated by particular activities, and be ready to tell your doctor how long you've been experiencing the pain and how bad it is. If you've had a recent injury, including a repetitive injury, the pain may not be due to arthritis, so think back to remember whether you could have ignored an injury. Doctors may also want to know about any past injuries that you may have triggered somehow and about whether you play any sports that require a lot of quick movements.
Arthritis sometimes manifests as joint stiffness, especially early in the morning or after sitting in one position for a long period. If you find that this stiffness doesn't go away after 30 minutes or so, it could be a symptom of arthritis. If you've experienced decreased range of motion in a joint, this can also be a sign of arthritis.
If you find yourself wincing whenever you touch or move a certain joint, think back to see if you can attribute the tenderness to a specific injury. If not, and if it combines with other symptoms of arthritis, the disease is probably the cause. Arthritic joints are often tender to even the slightest touch.
Asymmetrical pain is one of the hallmarks of osteoarthritis, with one knee, for instance, being affected while the other is not. Arthritic hands often develop stiffness and other symptoms in only a few joints, again in an asymmetric pattern. Symmetrical pain is more often associated with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease with a different pattern of symptoms.
Swelling around joints always indicates some sort of problem, whether caused by arthritis, injury, infection or some other cause. Arthritic joints, including their tendons and the surrounding tissues, tend to swell because of inflammation due to use of the damaged joint.
Redness and Warmth
A joint with arthritis often feels warm to the touch. The symptoms of warmth and redness tend to co-occur, indicating significant levels of inflammation or even infection. While there are many reasons other than arthritis for a joint to become red and warm, these symptoms are always serious, and the inflamed joint should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
If you ignore the symptoms of arthritis, you run the risk of developing a debilitating condition that can lead to bone spurs, damaged tendons and ligaments, and infection. While some symptoms of arthritis can initially feel just like the effects of normal aging, when symptoms taken together indicate the possibility of arthritis, you should see your primary care provider, who may refer you to a rheumatologist or orthopedic specialist.