You may know that inflammation and stiffness are the hallmarks of arthritis, but how do you know you have arthritis?
We may want to know that as a disease, arthritis is more complicated and varied than we can imagine. Most people do not know that arthritis can come in different forms and affect people in different ways. In fact it is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders that consist of more than 100 different diseases or conditions regardless of people ages, races and genders (note: statistics has shown that women stand a higher chance in getting arthritis than men. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, nearly three times as many women as men).
The question is how do we know if someone’s inflammation and stiffness is related to having arthritis? I believe this question can only be properly answered by a qualified medical professional, however, there are obvious signs that can provide us some clues to arthritis.
Based on medical studies, the following are the four warning signs that should give you a red alert for early diagnosis with your doctor.
- Pain. Despite that there are different forms of arthritis and its related diseases with the most common types of say osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), fibromyalgia and gout, pain is a very common feature among people with arthritis. What I can say is that different forms of arthritis cause pain differently and that the pain can be constant or it may come and go. True to believe, the pain can occur even when we are resting, and the pain may happen in one part of the body or in many different parts.
- Swelling. If your skin around the joint becomes red or swollen or feeling warm when touched, you will need to pay close attention to it. You may want to know that swelling that lasts longer than three days or if it occurs more than three times in a month should prompt you a visit to the doctor. In the case of psoriatic arthritis, the swelling can happen in the fingers and toes.
- Stiffness. This is a classic arthritis symptom and can affect joint in the jaw, fingers, hands, wrists and elbows, shoulders to even the lower parts of our body such as hips, knees, ankles and feet. The stiffness can happen not only after we are sitting long at a desk or after a long riding in a car, the stiffness can happen even when we wake up first thing in the morning. My understanding is that morning stiffness that lasts longer than an hour is an indication that the joints may be inflamed for us to suspect arthritis.
- Difficulty moving a joint. If you find that you are constantly in a situation that cause you unable to do your daily activities such as difficulty in walking, climb stairs or even find that hard to get up from chair, this may signal a type of arthritis.
Usually if we are suspected with having arthritis, the doctor will perform tests to check the range of motions in our joints by moving the joint back and forth and any pain that arose while performing the range of motion may signify possible symptom of arthritis.
There are a number of ways to treat inflammation and stiffness, e.g. i) the no medicine way such as by applying heat or cold to the affected joints; ii) over-the-counter medicines such as oral medication by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS); (iii) taking health supplements that are backed by science; (iv) making time for physical activity and (v) maintaining a healthy weight and so on.
However, medical studies showed that our experience with our joints will greatly help to pin down the type and extent of the arthritis, hence, before visiting a doctor, we should keep track of our symptoms say for a few weeks by noting down what is swollen and stiff, when it usually occurs and for how long, as well as what helps ease the symptoms are some of the important things that we can do to help ensure a lifelong joint health.
Tan Kok Hui
Nutrition Made Simple, Life Made Rich