When most young people hear about arthritis, they tend to brush it aside, attributing it to a disease of the elderly. However, arthritis can strike in young people too, so it's important to know the signs of early-onset arthritis. Besides the obvious symptoms of joint pain and stiffness, there are a number of other indicators that signify arthritis is on the way, and knowing what these are can help ensure you're taking the best care of your health.
"Early arthritis has multiple etiologies," Kristin Oliver, MD, sports medicine and regenerative orthopedic specialist, tells Bustle. "Genetic predisposition, repetitive use, poor biomechanics, and underlying systemic inflammatory disease can contribute. But the most common reason for developing early arthritis is trauma to a joint."
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.1 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 have been diagnosed with arthritis, while 29.3 percent of adults ages 44 to 65 have also been diagnosed. Knowing the early symptoms is important, as early treatment can help minimize joint deformities and even put the disease into remission. Because some of the symptoms can be subtle, they often go ignored, but knowing what could indicate arthritis can help you take the action you need. Here are seven unexpected early signs of arthritis to look out for.
While fatigue can be a sign of a variety of different things, if your doctor has ruled out many other factors, ask them about the possibility of arthritis. "Chronic tiredness, loss of appetite, and weight loss that persists for weeks can all be early warning symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis," says Oliver. "Some combination of these symptoms usually appears gradually or suddenly, along with stiffness and pain." Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and affects the joints. If you notice these symptoms, talk to your doctor about arthritis as a potential cause, as well as what you can do to treat it.
2. Joint Redness
The inflammation of arthritis can cause joints to become red. "The redness is another way your body manifests the arthritic process," says Oliver. "The most common form of early arthritis that will display redness is gout. Gout is caused by uric acid crystals collecting in your joints. The most common joint is the big toe. So if your big toe suddenly becomes red, swollen, and painful, see your doctor immediately."
The amount of swelling someone experiences in the area of the joints affected by arthritis can vary, as it is usually dependent on activity and diet. "The swelling is due to overproduction of synovial fluid, and inflammatory changes in the synovial fluid will lead to increased pain and stiffness," says Oliver.
4. Hot Joints
If you're experiencing some warmth in your hands, it could be a sign of arthritis. "Signs will include hot, painful joints that will occur [on both sides of the effected area]," chiropractor Dr. Alex Tauberg tells Bustle. "For instance someone with inflammatory arthritis is likely to have hot painful joints in both hands rather than just one."
5. Issues Looking Up
People with early arthritis often experience pain or feel uncomfortable sitting in the front few rows of a movie theater. "Looking up for extended periods causes stiffness and pain," Dr. David Shapiro, DC tells Bustle. "Both of these are signs that you are getting arthritis in your neck."
6. Bumps On Your Fingers
Have some unsuspecting bumps on your fingers? They may be related to arthritis. According to WebMD, these bumps are called rheumatoid nodules, and they are firm lumps under the skin that form close to joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. They can be as small as a pea, or sometimes as large as a walnut. If you are experiencing these bumps around the joints of your hands, talk with your doctor about how to treat them.
7. Flu-Like Symptoms
According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society of the UK, arthritis can also come with symptoms that feel like the flu, which is caused by general inflammation in the body. Along with fatigue, this can include a high temperature, sweating, and loss of appetite.
If you are experiencing many of these symptoms together, you'll want to see a doctor to check to see if you're experiencing early signs of arthritis.