While it’s generally associated with aging, arthritis is certainly not limited to people 65 years and older. Nearly 300,000 children under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with one form of arthritis or another, not to mention an estimated 62% of adults under the age of 65. In other words, though age can definitely be an influence, it’s only one of many potential risk factors. Also, while joint pain is the most obvious and common arthritis symptom, the several different types of arthritis out there (including lupus, gout, and fibromyalgia) will often present themselves in unique ways.
How Arthritis Symptoms Can Differ
As we said previously, increasing age is a primary risk factor in developing some form of arthritis. In addition aging, your genetics can also play a role. Your gender, weight, and any previous injuries to a joint also increase your susceptibility to arthritis.
The two most common types of arthritis, rheumatoid (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA), attack joints in different ways but result in very similar symptoms. The breakdown of joint cartilage with OA and the synovium lining with RA both lead to bone-on-bone contact, resulting in painful flare-ups and also inflammation around the affected areas. With OA being more a wear-and-tear based condition, it will often target a knee, hip, or hand, but not often both at the same time. In addition to common over the counter pain relievers, exercise, physical therapy, and hot-and-cold treatments can also bring substantial relief.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms stem from the body’s own immune system attacking a joint, and will usually affect the same joint on each side of the body. Unfortunately for RA sufferers, the flare-ups and severe inflammation can often last for days at a time, so pain relief often requires stronger, more specialized medicines.
Fibromyalgia targets areas of the body near joints, but is more of an acute musculoskeletal pain, very sensitive to touch, and may also be accompanied by fatigue and mood swings.
Excessive uric acid in the bloodstream can lead to gout, which often strikes in the joint of the big toe. It also differs because the pain can strike out of nowhere, literally popping up overnight with no warning or symptoms leading up to it.
If you’re experiencing painful flare-ups or inflammation around your joints, see your care provider for a more thorough evaluation. Knowing what you’re dealing with is an important first step in feeling better.