Recognizing the Signs:
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As there are almost 200 types of arthritis caused by nearly as many different conditions and symptoms can vary in appearance, location and severity. Many people only start to feel pain and joint stiffness gradually over time. Pain can come and go and when it does occur, this is known as a flare-up. The first symptoms of arthritis most commonly occur in the hands, shoulders, hips or knees. Joints can become tender, swollen and difficult to move. Signs of inflammation start to occur, causing a redness and heat in the affected area, such as the hands, feet or shoulder. Although arthritis may be more common in the hands or knees, it can occur in any part of the body including the toes ( known as gout). All these are indicators that something is not quite right. Sometimes arthritic pain and inflammation is also accompanied by:
If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to seek medical advice. Arthritis is not a diagnosis in itself, a specific form of arthritis will need to be diagnosed. See diagnosis of arthritis.
Disease progression can vary from person to person, and also according to the type of arthritis diagnosed. Here is a list of the most common forms of arthritis and their symptoms:
For some people with osteoarthritis changes are so subtle, appearing gradually over time, that they are hardly notice them. For others, symptoms worsen considerably over fewer years. Signs include:
• Pain in affected joints, particularly after repetitive use. Pain can be sharp or burning. Constant pain, or pain which occurs during sleep may be an indication that arthritis is getting worse.
Initial symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (which may be mistaken for other illnesses) include:
Gradually joint pain will start to appear, most probably in the morning and can last for up to an hour. Joints can become stiff, inflamed, red and tender when not used for periods of time. Pain can appear in any part of the body including hips (hip arthritis), knees (arthritis of the knee), neck, shoulders (arthritis of the shoulders) and wrists. Gradually overtime, the joints can lose their range of motion and may become deformed and permanently swollen.
Symptoms of lupus which help doctors differentiate this condition from other rheumatic diseases include:
• A rash which appears across the bridge of the nose and cheeks in a butterfly-shape (also known as the Lupus Malar Rash).
• Psoriasis, scaly patches of dried skin most commonly appearing on the knees, elbows, toes (image), scalp and backbone.
Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica usually develop quite rapidly. Muscle pain and stiffness of joints, particularly first thing in the morning or after periods of little movement. Usually the neck and shoulder muscles are most affected. Pain can range from moderate to severe and usually lasts about 30 to 60 minutes. It can lessen after some activity. Tenderness can also be experienced in the upper arms. About 40 percent of people with polymyalgia rheumatica also experience:
This chronic form of arthritis affects parts of the spine, including the bones, ligaments and muscles. Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and usually take years to develop fully. Signs usually appear first in the teenage years and may come and go, getting better or worse over time. The main signs are:
TMJ, also known as myofacial pain dysfunction and Costen's syndrome, refers to problems with the jawbone joint. If the joints or muscles become stiff, this can lead to a range of problems including difficulties chewing. Other common symptoms include:
• Headaches, nearly 80 percent of TMJ sufferers complain of headaches with 45 percent reporting jaw pain. Exposure to wind or a cold draught can aggravate the condition.
A non-chronic form of arthritis, caused by an infection which spreads to the joints through the blood vessels, maybe through an open wound or during surgery. Fortunately this condition is highly curable. It is also known as septic arthritis. Signs include:
• Arthritic joint pain. Depending on the infection, more than one joint may be affected. Most commonly the knee and hip are affected.
Gout usually occurs after a number of years of build up of uric acid crystals in the joints. Symptoms include:
• Inflammation of a joint, usually the big toe, which is painful and warm to touch (also known as podagra - image).
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