There are nearly 40 million people in the United States affected by some form of arthritis.
Which means one very likely thing—odds are, you know someone with arthritis. You might even have it yourself. The unfortunate fact of the matter is, though, that a majority of Americans are ignorant to the true details of the disease until after they’re diagnosed. And this keeps them from taking the appropriate steps within their power to avoid the onset.
Read on to learn a bit more about the disease itself, in what forms it comes and what you can do to prevent it.
What are the symptoms?
Arthritis can be misdiagnosed and mistaken for other common aches and pains. While a majority of people will experience pain and stiffness regularly as they age, it’s when hands and knees become increasingly swollen and immobile when you should be concerned about arthritis.
How is it caused?
When inflammation develops in the tissue that lines your joints, these areas can become painful and stiff. Essentially, think of any place where two bones meet, like your elbows and knees – these are common areas to encounter arthritic symptoms.
What are the types of arthritis?
While there is a vast variety of types of arthritis – some even estimate it’s in the hundreds – most cases fall into three common types.
More often than not, a person who contracts the disease will be suffering from this type of arthritis. It’s caused by general wear and tear that may include overuse of your joints or simply getting older. It can be injury-based (making it especially common in athletic or active people) or weight-based.
Where you see it: Most commonly found in weight-bearing joints, such as knees, hips and feet
How to detect it: This type of arthritis is accompanied by deep pain; difficulty with simply, everyday activities like getting dressed and crouching; and regular stiffness during the morning hours
Not all forms of arthritis are caused by usage over time and aging. This type, in fact, is a disease related to your immune system in which, many believe, the body is attacked systematically and particularly in the joints. Some researchers have attributed this to the body merely confusing elements of its own systems for virus or disease and attacking itself.
Where you see it: Can be found in any joints throughout the body – it varies greatly from person to person
How to detect it: This type of arthritis is accompanied by symptoms similar to the ones found in osteoarthritis – just more intense, and, for joints that come in pairs, you’ll likely experience these symptoms in both (i.e., knees, elbows, etc.)
Sometimes inflammation of the skin and joints can cause arthritic conditions – and it’s the third-most-common form of the disease. Though borne out of psoriasis, only about 10-30 percent of people with psoriasis end up with related arthritis. Also, unlike the above types, it might just affect one or two joints, rather than most or all.
Where you see it: Most commonly found through swelling of the fingers and toes
How to detect it: This type of arthritis is accompanied by symptoms such as discoloration of the fingernails and patchy, red skin
What can I do?
Despite the fact that there is no surefire way to keep from getting arthritis, there are things under your control that can help keep your joints healthy and mobile. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can stave off osteoarthritis, which is most often caused by obesity when found in young people. By avoiding injury, you can prevent chronic conditions – be careful during athletic activities and get properly trained. Finally, quitting smoking actually has a great effect on contraction of rheumatoid arthritis – keeping off cigarettes keeps your immune system strong.
While there’s no one way to prevent or diagnose arthritis, there are things in your power to affect change—take care of yourself and make smart decisions, and it’ll pay off in your older years.