As we grow older, we often find that our bodies don’t work the way they used to. A day of gardening or scrubbing kitchen floors may cause joints to feel sore or stiff the next morning, and you may notice that the creaking noise you hear while climbing the stairs is actually coming from your knees. Aches, pains and joint stiffness can be normal parts of the aging process, but they could also be early signs of arthritis.
Arthritis is a general term that encompasses nearly 200 types of rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect the joints. We typically think of arthritis as a disease that only affects the elderly, but people of all ages can develop arthritis, including children. May is Arthritis Awareness Month, which is a great reminder for all of us to familiarize ourselves with the signs and symptoms of arthritis. Those daily aches and pains could be an indication of something more serious.
Signs of arthritis include:
- Pain – Arthritic pain typically feels like a dull ache or burning sensation deep within the joint. Pain typically occurs right after the joint has been frequently utilized, though some patients may find that their pain occurs early in the morning.
- Swelling – The body releases synovial fluid to lubricate and cushion the joints, but this fluid can collect within the joint and lead to swelling. This can be extremely painful and may restrict movement.
- Stiffness – Joints that are inflamed may become stiff, particularly first thing in the morning or after exercise. Stiffness can occur in any of the joints and may or may not be accompanied by pain.
- Redness and warmth – Joint redness and warmth are common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition which causes the immune system to attack healthy joint tissue.
- Limited range of motion – Pain, swelling and stiffness within the joint can limit range of motion and interfere with daily activities.
Occasional aches and pains are part of life, but they shouldn’t be a daily occurrence. If you frequently experience joint pain that interferes with daily activities or keeps you from doing what you love most, talk to your doctor about the possibility of arthritis. While there is currently no cure for arthritis, there are a wide variety of treatment options that can alleviate your pain and preserve joint health.