Most people think arthritis is a disease that only impacts the elderly, but there are different types and causes of arthritis that can gradually appear earlier in life. Many of these early signs go unnoticed.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 78 million (26% of the projected total adult population) adults aged 18 years and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2040.
One of the most familiar types of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). According to the Arthritis Foundation, RA is classified as an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. If left untreated, the cartilage surrounding the joints can become damaged and degrade. This will cause the space between the bones to become smaller resulting in joints becoming loose, unstable and have a lack of mobility. Once RA has reached this stage, it cannot be reversed.
RA usually begins between ages 30 and 60. Women are three times more likely to have the disease than men.
The symptoms of RA include:
- Stiffness in the morning or after a long period of rest
- Joint pain or tenderness
- Inflammation of hands, elbows, neck, shoulders, knees, feet, ankles or hips
- The same joints on both sides are affected
- Fatigue and discomfort
Osteoarthritis is considered the most common and affects approximately 27 million Americans. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage deteriorates resulting in pain, swelling and lack of mobility of joints. Over time, bones may deteriorate and develop spurs. Spurs, or bone fragments, float around in the joint.
This form of arthritis is most common with people 65 or older. Risk factors are attributed to age, previous joint injury, obesity, weak muscles and genetics.
- Range of motion is limited or stiffness occurs
- Cracking or clicking sound when bending joints
- Swelling around affected joints
- Pain becomes worse after physical activity or near the end of the day
If you experience any of these symptoms, please consult your physician to be informed on the next steps to take. Recognizing the signs early can help you become more aware of your health.