Aches and Pains or Arthritis?

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Aches and Pains or Arthritis?Arthritis, for many Americans, is a frustrating and disabling condition. According to the CDC, more than one in four adults in the US has it—that’s 54.4 million people! It’s also one of the leading causes of disability and, it’s also the biggest reason people around the world retire early. This condition has a significant impact on the economy because many people use sick leave or quit their jobs trying to find relief. Catching and treating it early may improve quality of life and help patients with arthritis thrive.

You’ve probably heard of the aches and pains arthritis causes, but do you know the symptoms? There are actually different types of arthritis, and in this article, we’ll introduce some common arthritic conditions and talk about the symptoms to watch out for.

How do you know?

Arthritis is tricky—without a doctor’s diagnosis, you really can’t know for sure. Everyone probably has occasional aches and pains in their joints, so how do you know if you should see your healthcare provider?

There are actually more than 100 different types of arthritis, but they all cause joint inflammation and can be very painful. This pain can happen suddenly or may seem to happen gradually. You might be tempted to write it off as overuse or too much activity. It can manifest itself in different ways throughout the body, too, making it difficult (or impossible!) to diagnose yourself.

Ouch! Which Arthritis is It?

You may be surprised how many ways our joints can suffer from arthritis. Each of these types may have different causes, pain levels, and necessary treatments:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)—An autoimmune condition, RA happens when your body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, such as the lining of your joints. Joint swelling, stiffness, and pain are common but so is a mild fever, fatigue and a loss of appetite. Inflammation can cause all kinds of other symptoms that seem unrelated, such as dry mouth and red, painful eyes or small lumps under the skin. See your doctor if you have these symptoms—your doctor can run tests to see if you have RA.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis—This arthritis may share some of RA’s symptoms, making it hard to identify. It’s also an autoimmune condition like RA, but in addition, it attacks the skin and nails. This causes psoriasis, with scaly patches on the skin and brittle fingernails that may break off entirely. Your doctor can determine if it’s psoriatic arthritis causing your symptoms or if it’s another skin condition.
  • Osteoarthritis (OA)—With OA, the cartilage, or protective tissue in your joints that’s between your bones, breaks down and your bones rub against each other. This friction makes movement painful. You may have very mild joint pain or severe pain in your joints, and it may interfere with your daily activities such as work, school, family responsibilities, or leisure. Asking your doctor to check for OA can help prevent further damage down the road.
  • Gout—This is an inflammatory arthritis that’s caused by too much uric acid in the blood. When your body can’t remove it fast enough, the build-up of uric acid causes painful crystals to form in your joints. You can feel excruciatingly bad pain all of a sudden, usually in your big toe, ankle, or knee. Your doctor can do imaging tests or a blood test to check for Gout.
  • Fibromyalgia—Because people with fibromyalgia process pain differently, their bodies can interpret otherwise benign movements or mildly painful injuries as much worse. Your brain and brain stem, with fibromyalgia, both process signals in such a way that pain is much more significant—everyday tasks can become impossible. You’ll also probably feel fatigued, struggle with sleep problems, and have trouble concentrating your mind on projects or hobbies. If these symptoms happen to you, check with your doctor.
  • Lupus—An autoimmune form of arthritis that causes widespread joint pain, discomfort, fatigue, and a variety of other symptoms throughout the body. A rash, joint pain and/or accompanying symptoms throughout the body may mean it’s time to see your doctor to rule out lupus.

Seem familiar? Check with your doctor if you recognize these symptoms and suspect you could have arthritis. When it’s caught early, arthritis is very treatable. Treatment can help prevent many of the limitations people with arthritis experience. You can also get treatment for the pain that’s a common part of having arthritis. Our doctors and specialists can answer your questions and help you learn more about an arthritis diagnosis and treatment.

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