We would like to take the time to explain a disease that many people suffer from and are learning how to deal with on a daily basis. Arthritis is very common but not actually well understood. Technically, “arthritis” is not a single disease; it is an informal and general way of referring to joint pain or disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes, and races can have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis.
A lot of people think they might have arthritis, but for some reason never discuss it with their doctors. We believe this should change so those people can live their best, most comfortable life. Generally, many older people accept joint pain as a part of aging that can’t be avoided. They don’t talk to their doctor because they assume nothing can be done about it. And younger people with joint pain, swelling, or stiffness might not even consider arthritis as the cause.
Common arthritis symptoms include, but are not limited to, swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in the joints. Symptoms may not be constant – they can come and go, and they can range in intensity from mild to moderate to severe. They may stay relatively the same for years, but may progress, or get worse, over time. Arthritis can also cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, but usually can only be seen via X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys, and even the skin, in addition to the joints.
If you are having joint symptoms and are asking yourself if you could have arthritis, you owe it to your joint’s health to find out. Because there are so many different types of arthritis and conditions that affect the joints, diagnosis can be tricky. Most people start with their primary care physician, but then
are referred to medical specialists called rheumatologists, who are experts in arthritis and related diseases.
If you believe you have been struggling with these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician. They likely will be able to tell you whether you should see a specialist or not. It is important to catch your symptoms in the beginning so it does not get worse gradually without treatment.
It is important that you take the best care of yourself possible. Please do not ignore symptoms, however minimal they may be. Find out of arthritis is something you are at risk for, whether it is because of family history or your profession.