5 Telltale Symptoms of Arthritis

5 Telltale Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis is a group of diseases that involve your joints. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related disorders, but the one most people think of when they hear the word “arthritis” is osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type.

Recent data suggest that more than 90 million Americans have arthritis, although not all of those individuals have sought medical care for their symptoms. Arthritis happens when the inside lining of one or more joints becomes irritated and inflamed, eventually breaking down and increasing the risk of bone-on-bone contact.

Many people think of arthritis as a disease that only affects older people, but that’s not true: Arthritis affects younger people, too. It’s a leading cause of disability among working-age Americans. Even kids and teens can be affected.

At Primary Care Associates, our team in Frederick and Clarksburg, Maryland, offers arthritis treatments for patients of all ages, including joint injections designed to deliver pain relief and other therapies directly to the joint structure. Wondering if you have arthritis? Here are five symptoms to look for.

1. Chronic joint pain

Joints form where two or more bones meet. The ends of the bones are protected by a thick layer of slick cartilage. In arthritis, this cartilage layer is gradually destroyed. As the cartilage wears away, inflammation inside the joint increases, speeding up the cartilage-destruction process. 

Over time, increased inflammation causes your joints to become sore. While initially, pain may increase when you move your joints, eventually, arthritis causes joint pain even when the joint is at rest.

Arthritis joint pain may be worse during cold weather, and other factors can cause pain to flare up, like a change in barometric pressure or weight gain. 

2. Joint stiffness 

Joint stiffness is another common sign of arthritis. In fact, for many people, a slight stiffness is the first sign that they may have a problem. 

Stiffness happens when the tissue lining the joint (the synovium) gets irritated and inflamed. Inflammation causes the tissue to swell, compromising normal joint movement. 

Many people find joint stiffness is worse in the morning or after sitting for an extended period (for instance, remaining seated during a long car or plane trip). In earlier stages of arthritis, stiffness may resolve temporarily once you start moving around again.

3. Warmth around the joint

Warmth around a joint may not happen as early as pain and stiffness, but it’s still a fairly common symptom. Warmth is a sort of “byproduct” of the inflammatory process that happens inside an arthritis joint.

Warmth may also indicate an infection, especially if accompanied by a fever or fatigue. If you have persistent or increasing warmth around a joint, especially if you also have a fever or joint swelling, having it evaluated right away is crucial for ruling out a serious infection — and for treating an infection, so it doesn’t spread. 

4. Swollen joints

Swelling is another “side effect” of inflammation. Your joint swells when fluids invade the joint tissues in response to inflammation. 

 

Swelling tends to worsen as the cartilage wears away and the bone ends are exposed, creating increased friction and additional damage inside the joint. In some people, tiny fragments of bone may break away, or bony growths called bone spurs can develop along the edge of the bone. Both of these can increase inflammation and swelling inside the joint.

5. Impaired joint function

In the early stages of arthritis, joint stiffness tends to resolve with movement and therapy. But as the disease progresses, changes inside the joint often result in a permanent loss of joint function. Bone spurs and other changes inside your joint can lead to joint function problems. 

Rheumatoid symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the second most common type of arthritis, although it affects far fewer people than osteoarthritis. RA is an autoimmune disorder, which happens when your immune system attacks the healthy tissue inside your joints — primarily the joint cartilage. 

RA is associated with many of the same symptoms as OA, but because it involves your immune system, it can also cause fever and fatigue. Permanent joint disfigurement is also more common among people with long-term RA.

Find relief for your arthritis symptoms

Our team offers an array of arthritis treatments, including physical therapy, pain medicines, and injections to combat pain and other symptoms. To learn how we can help you manage your arthritis symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with Primary Care Associates today.

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