Not Just An Old Persons Disease
There is an existing misconception that arthritis is entirely a consequence of aging and only happens to the elderly, but statistics show otherwise.Based on the data of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , while its more common among older adults of 65 years and above, it can happen to people of all ages.In fact, 7% of doctor-diagnosed arthritis in the US is in the age group of 18-44. It can even happen to children below 16 years old.Such misbelief can be attributed to the fact that the risk of developing osteoarthritis, the most common type, increases as we age. Moreover, many people also confuse osteoarthritis with osteoporosis, another condition where the elderly are more at risk.Yes, the risk of developing most types of arthritis rises with age but that isnt the sole contributing factor.
What Are The Causes Of Osteoarthritis
The causes of osteoarthritis generally differ between someone who is young and an older person with the condition.
Causes of osteoarthritis in the young include:
- Being overweight or obese, which puts extra pressure on the weight-bearing joints
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Having a job that requires sitting down for long periods of time
- Poor posture when sitting for long periods or regular heavy lifting
- Performing regular impact sports, such as football or hockey
- Having a job that puts continued strain on the joints
- Joint injuries
- Being very active or athletic
- A family history of osteoarthritis
- Being born with hip dysplasia
- Having diabetes or a disorder related to growth hormones
Osteoarthritis in older people and the elderly is usually down to wear and tear of joints that naturally occurs with age.
Recognizing Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Jasmine was experiencing the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, says Anders Peck, M.D., a rheumatologist at The Seattle Arthritis Clinic at Northwest Outpatient Medical Center and Jasmines doctor.
Its not like one day you wake up and everything is terrible, but severe pain and stiffness can start and worsen over a course of several days to a week. People might notice significant stiffness in the morning and swollen joints without any mechanical trigger. They may find that they have difficulties doing simple things such as lifting a coffee cup, writing or buttoning a shirt, says Peck.
Symmetrical joint swelling is also an identifying characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis. The pain and inflammation that started in Jasmines right elbow joint and then affected her left elbow is a classic manifestation.
Its best to go to a doctor on the early side of recognizing symptoms such as these.
Its important to treat rheumatoid arthritis early after it starts. It is an autoimmune disease and may be easier to treat before the immune system becomes established in an abnormal pattern. Early treatment also helps to prevent the likelihood of severe damage to the joints in the future, says Peck.
But it can sometimes be challenging for young women who are otherwise healthy to recognize what theyre experiencing as symptoms of a disease.
I would take a lot of really long, hot showers. And I would sleep, says Jasmine.
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‘hard To Come To Terms With’
At first, Carrie was relieved at having a diagnosis because it meant there was an explanation for how she’d been feeling and that she could get the treatment she needed. However facing the prospect of a lifetime of chronic illness, she was worried for her future and her long-term health.
Dr Benjamin Ellis, consultant rheumatologist and spokesperson for Arthritis Research UK, explains that teenagers often struggle to accept their arthritis, not least because in their eyes it makes them different from their friends.
“In adolescents, arthritis can strike when their bodies and minds are rapidly changing, which is a difficult enough time without having to contend with painful, swollen joints, and possibly wearing hand splints and using walking aids,” he says. “It can be particularly hard for young people to come to terms with having a long-term condition, and having to take regular powerful medicines or injections to control the immune system’s attack on their bodies.”
Carrie has weekly injections of a medicine called tocilizumab, a biological therapy used to regulate the production of a certain type of protein that, in many people with rheumatoid arthritis, is a primary cause of inflammation, joint damage and fatigue.
“It gave me the ability to walk again,” she says. “I still have some really bad days and flare-ups, and I often get infections because my immune system is suppressed, but the medication made me functional again.”
Medications For Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief
For many RA sufferers, the pain and joint damage from the disease can be managed with medications. A few medication options are disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, and pain medications. While medications can bring relief, they also bring the risk of side effects. Many of these side effects can include liver damage, weight gain, or further weaken your already compromised immune system.
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The Connection Between Age And Arthritis
It’s one of the biggest misconceptions about arthritis. Most people believe that arthritis is an old person’s disease and that it is entirely a consequence of aging. If that were the case, arthritis would be inevitable and it’s not.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, but people of all ages can be affected. “Nearly two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than 65. Arthritis is more common among women than men in every age group, and it affects members of all racial and ethnic groups. Arthritis is also more common among adults who are obese than among those who are normal weight or underweight.”
What Are The Signs Of Arthritis In Teenagers
The symptoms of arthritis in teenagers and young people start as simple joint pain, particularly in the knees. Teens will have pain, sometimes swelling or sometimes limping without pain.
“Pain and swelling are not usually typical of minor joint injuries,” says Dr. Smurawa. “If you have significant pain, swelling or loss of motion, that could indicate some type of arthritis.”
If knee pain does not go away on its own or with the help of physical therapy, it may be caused by OCD. If an athlete experiences any knee pain that lasts for weeks or months, they should see an orthopedic specialist and have an X-ray. Early treatment may help prevent injuries from getting worse.
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Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Rheumatoid arthritis also causes pain and swelling in the joints. Usually the small joints of the fingers and toes are affected first. The most common symptom is stiffness, and it takes a long time to get the joints moving, especially in the morning.
The disease is symmetrical, meaning that if your left index finger is swollen and painful, youll usually have the same symptoms in the right index finger.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be systemic, meaning it can develop to the point that it affects the whole body.
Other non-joint symptoms can include:
- shortness of breath
Helping Your Child Live With Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Help your child manage his or her symptoms by sticking to the treatment plan. This includes getting enough sleep. Encourage exercise and physical therapy and find ways to make it fun. Work with your child’s school to make sure your child has help as needed. Work with other caregivers to help your child take part as much possible in school, social, and physical activities. Your child may also qualify for special help under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You can also help your child find a support group to be around with other children with JIA.
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Symptoms Are Somewhat Different In Young People
In younger people, osteoarthritis typically affects load-bearing jointsthe knees, hips, and anklesbecause they are most likely to be affected by athletic injuries and obesity , says Dr. Unis. Although symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary depending on the joint affected, he suggests keeping an eye out for mechanical symptoms such catching, locking, and grinding, particularly in the knees. Another red flag: persistent, worsening joint pain that doesn’t improve after rest or anti-inflammatory drugs.
A less common symptom in younger people is joint deformities. “These occur over time, with more advanced arthritis,” Dr. Unis explains. “But some people will get worsening knock-knees or bow-legged deformities as the arthritis gets worse.”
What Causes Arthritis At A Young Age
One type of arthritis, juvenile arthritis , is most often caused by an autoimmune disorder. This rare condition affects about 300,000 kids under age 16 in the United States.
However, young people can also develop osteoarthritis, which is the type of arthritis most associated with aging joints. This type of arthritis causes inflammation, pain and damage to the cartilage.
In kids and teens, osteoarthritis can be caused by a joint disorder called osteochondritis dissecans . In children with this condition, a small amount of bone begins to separate from the bone around it, causing the cartilage to soften. Over time, it can lead to joint degeneration, cartilage deterioration and arthritis. Osteochondritis dissecans is more likely to occur in knees, ankles and elbows, but its cause is unclear.
“OCD is often seen in the more athletic population,” says Dr. Smurawa, “but can also be seen in nonathletic children. When it does develop, it can have a varying effect on the cartilage inside the joint.”
In some cases, OCD can heal on its own. However, more severe OCD can damage the cartilage, which may result in earlier osteoarthritis. In very severe cases, orthopedic surgeons can use surgical techniques to help the OCD lesion heal and reduce the risk of developing arthritis in the teenage years or early adulthood.
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Stop Avoiding Mobility Aids
A cane, walker, or wheelchair may be necessary for some people with arthritis to stay independent and get around on their own. Understandably it can be tough to think about needing some sort of mobility aid, but if you do need one and don’t use it you risk missing out on things you would enjoy.
A cane or wheelchair doesn’t define who you are, and no one will judge you or think less of you for using one. In fact, you’ll probably be admired for getting out there and having fun in spite of needing a little help.
Rather Than Questioning My Illness Try Supporting Me Through It
Yes, it sucks being diagnosed with any illness at what many consider a young age. But instead of reminding someone of that, focus instead on showing them that you want to support them through this journey. There are a number of ways to support someone with a chronic illness, from educating yourself on their condition to avoiding toxic positivity.
And if youre not particularly close to a person, you can simply say, Im sorry to hear. That must be really difficult for you. Empathy for our situation is more appreciated than you could know.
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Can You Prevent Arthritis
There is no single preventative measure for arthritis, especially considering all of the different forms that exist. But you can take steps to preserve joint function and mobility. These steps will also improve your overall quality of life.
Learning more about the disease can also help with early treatment. For example, if you know you have an autoimmune disorder, you can be mindful of early symptoms. The earlier you catch the disease and start treatment the better you may be able to delay the progression of the disease.
Some general recommendations as to how you can prevent arthritis include:
- Eating a Mediterranean-style diet. A diet of fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, beans, and whole grains may help with inflammation. Decreasing your intake of sugar, wheat, and gluten may also help.
- Eating a diet low in sugars. Sugars can contribute to inflammation and gout pain.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. This reduces the demands on your joints.
- Exercising regularly. Physical activity can help reduce pain, improve mood, and increase joint mobility and function.
- Refraining from smoking. The habit can worsen autoimmune disorders, and is a major risk-factor for rheumatoid arthritis
- Seeing your doctor for yearly check-ups. Remember to report any symptoms that may be related to arthritis.
- Wearing proper protective equipment. When playing sports or doing work, protective equipment can help prevent injuries.
It Can Stall Crucial Diagnosis And Early Treatment
Telling someone theyre too young to have arthritis or dont look like they have arthritis can impact their journey of healing, both physically and emotionally.
I went through a heavy period of denial when I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I kept thinking there must be something else wrong with me or that I was making it all up. A lot of this was because others tried to convince me I was too young and would be just fine.
Even some health care providers made insensitive comments that made me feel that I was out of place at the treatment facility that I was taking up space, time, and costs that could be going to someone older and sicker.
This prevented me from accepting the severity of my disease and the medications I needed to take to prevent irreversible damage. It also led to a time of depression, which can have a significant impact on arthritis too.
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Ra Affects Your Emotions Too
If youâre stressed out or worried about your RA diagnosis, tell your doctor. They can help you get mental health therapy to help you live with your disease, or even prescribe medication for depression if you need it.
Other tips for living with RA:
- Donât try to do too much. Get enough rest when RA makes you feel worn out.
- Ping your friends and talk it out when RA makes you feel upset or worried.
- Check out online or local RA support groups to share your feelings with others who are going through the same thing.
- Make time for yourself. If youâre beat, skip out on some social activities. Take a walk, listen to some tunes, or just hang out at home. Give yourself a break.
What Can I Do
If you are on the young side and suspect arthritis, dont despair. Its a myth that nothing can be done about arthritis. Experts suspect that it comes from a combination of genetic and environmental causes.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Keep a journal of pain and health issues, and show it to your doctor.
- Stay active with low-impact exercise.
- Balance activity with periods of rest.
- Adopt good sleep habits.
Theres also an emotional component to arthritis. Dealing with daily pain, stiffness, and inflammation could leave you feeling angry or even depressed. Chronic pain can be emotionally challenging.
If you are fairly young, you may tire of hearing people say, But youre too young to have arthritis! People may not be able to see whats wrong, and may not understand how you are feeling.
Talk to your doctor about emotional challenges you may be facing. Your mental health contributes to your overall health, and is an important part of living with arthritis.
Need additional information? The Primary Care Specialists at Johnson Memorial Health can help you manage your condition and provide answers to your questions.
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Carve Out Time For Daily Stress
Traumatic events and ongoing stress are very real triggers for inflammatory diseases. In our go-go-go world, were always rushing we cant miss this deadline or that meeting, and we very rarely take the time to sit back, relax, and let our minds reset. Diet and stress are two root causes of a damaged gut, inflammation, and chronic disease, so its no surprise that in order to heal your arthritis naturally, you must take time to practice your favorite stress reduction activities daily. I recommend meditation, yoga, long walks through nature, and journaling to ease the mind.
My upcoming book, Healing Arthritis, talks all this and more, and offers a step-by-step, two-week plan to get to the bottom of the disease, reduce inflammation, and heal your joint painonce and for all.
New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.
New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.
What Are The Steps To Diagnosis
Speaking to your GP about your symptoms is a good place to begin getting a diagnosis. Theyre likely to refer you or your child to a sports medicine physician or orthopaedic surgeon who may then carry out all, or some, of the following tests:
- A physical examination of the joint to asses tenderness, swelling, inflammation and mobility
- Blood tests, to rule out the possibility of rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions including gout(there is no blood test for osteoarthritis
- An x-ray to assess for the loss of cartilage or bone spurs
- An MRI scan to provide a detailed image of the inside of the joint, including the soft tissue
What are the treatment options?
Although any damage to the joints cannot be reversed, the symptoms of osteoarthritis can be managed, allowing sufferers to live as normal a life as possible.
Treatments for osteoarthritis include lifestyle advice, medications, orthobiologics and surgery.
Lifestyle changes include taking steps to lose weight if necessary and doing low impact exercise, such as yoga, to help strengthen muscles around the joint to stabilise it. Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist if your job or choice of physical activity is causing your symptoms. They may also recommend topical treatments or the use of hot or cold compresses.
Medications for osteoarthritis include pain relievers such as over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory ibuprofen, or stronger pain reliever prescriptions.
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