Common Joint Issues – What You Need to Know

Achy joints, sore knuckles – makes you think of arthritis, right? Turns out there are over 100 different kinds of arthritis, and they are not all created equal – different symptoms, different risk factors, and different experiences for those who suffer from them. Keep reading as we break down the most common types of arthritis, who is most commonly affected by each, and ways you can reduce your risk.

Osteoarthritis

Also known as “OA”, this is the most common kind of chronic joint condition with nearly 27 million Americans affected. OA develops when cartilage in the joints break down, causing pain, swelling, and movement problems.

While this type of arthritis is mostly found in people older than 65, it can affect people of all ages. Risk factors include increasing age, obesity, previous joint injury, joint overuse, weak muscles and genetics.

So how can you protect yourself? First and foremost, maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can put additional pressure on hips and knees, which ultimately can break down the cartilage that protects those important joints.

Experts also agree that limiting sugar, being physically active, and wearing appropriate protective sporting gear are also big ways to reduce your risk of OA.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the joints. This can cause joint pain, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite – and while symptoms like this may come and go during a flare, inflammation can be ongoing, leading to problems with other organs (think dry eyes and mouth, shortness of breath, blood vessel damage.)

Researchers are hard at work right here in Colorado, hoping to discover ways to prevent RA. StopRA, a clinical trial to prevent RA in people who are at high risk, are identifying possible participants through free RA screenings at various 9Health Fair locations. To see which locations are offering this free screening, and to learn more about RA, visit http://www.stop-ra.org/.

Fibromyalgia

This disorder causes musculoskeletal pain and is often accompanied by fatigue, tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.

Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men, and you may be more likely to develop this disorder if a relative also has the condition. Individuals who have other joint conditions, like previously mentioned OA and RA, may be at a higher risk for fibromyalgia than others.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but medication can help alleviate symptoms. Additionally, those with fibromyalgia may find that exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction techniques can help as well.

Gout

Gout is a sudden, severe attack of pain, swelling and redness and is the result of accumulation of urate crystals in your joint, which causes inflammation and pain.

This condition most commonly affects the big toe, but can occur in any joint like ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers. Pain can last for just a few minutes, but can also last longer – up to a few weeks at times.

The bad news about gout is that it can affect anyone. The good news is that there are a multitude of ways to manage symptoms, prevent flares, or to prevent the condition altogether. Experts suggest limiting food and drinks that are high in uric acid, like meat, seafood, alcohol and drinks sweetened with fructose. Maintain a healthy weight, consume low-fat dairy products, and drink plenty of fluids to protect yourself against gout.

Healthy joints enable us to move and to do the things we love to do each day. If you have a joint issue you are concerned about, speak to your health care provider. As with many conditions, early detection can lead to better outcomes. And don’t forget – it’s 9Health Fair season! Find a fair near you today.