Arthritis is a very common medical condition among older people, affecting around 10 million people in the UK today. There are several different types of arthritis, the most common of which are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Almost nine million people suffer from osteoarthritis, making it by far the most common form of the condition. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, affects around 400,000 people in the UK. Today’s article is a guide to the common symptoms of arthritis, focusing specifically on osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. It’s important to know the signs so that you can get the right treatment as quickly as possible.
To learn more about arthritis in general, please see our in-depth guide to the condition.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
As previously mentioned, osteoarthritis affects almost nine million people in the UK – making it the most common type of the condition. It’s most common in adults who are in their mid-40s or older, with women more likely to be affected. Those with a family history of the condition are also at a higher risk.
Osteoarthritis can sometimes occur as a result of an injury. It also has associations with other joint problems like gout and rheumatoid arthritis. Initially, osteoarthritis affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint, causing movement to become more difficult than usual.
This difficulty leads to the main symptoms of the condition: pain and stiffness in the joints. The symptoms may come and go in episodes, depending on factors like your activity levels. However, in severe cases, the joint pain and stiffness can be continuous.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but the most common areas are your knees, hips, and smaller joints in your hand:
- Knees – Both your knees will commonly be affected over time. This may not be the case if it occurs due to an injury or another medical condition affecting only one knee.
- Hips – The pain and stiffness will prevent you from moving your hips joints easily. You’ll also usually have pain in the groin or outside the hip.
- Hand – The three main areas affected are the base of your thumb, the joints closest to your fingertips, and the middle joints of your finger. Alongside the pain and stiffness, your fingers may become swollen.
According to the NHS, you’ll usually only experience symptoms in one joint or a few joints at any one time. Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Your joints appearing slightly larger or more “knobbly” than usual.
- A crackling or grating sound in your joints.
- Limited range of movement.
- Weakness and muscle wasting.
- Joint tenderness.
Of course, if you’re suffering from any of the above you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people in the UK. Symptoms usually develop between the ages of 40 and 50. Like osteoarthritis, this condition is more common in women. In fact, women are three times more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
This form of arthritis is actually an autoimmune condition, in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy joint tissue. This is what leads to the most common symptoms: joint pain, stiffness and swelling. The symptoms of arthritis usually develop gradually over several weeks. However, in some severe cases, they can appear in a matter of days.
Each case of rheumatoid arthritis is different, with symptoms coming and going. It’s common for those affected to suffer from flare-ups; this when your condition deteriorates rapidly and your symptoms become more severe for a period of time.
Initially, rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the small joints in the hands and feet. Most people will find that the condition affects their joints symmetrically (e.g. both hands or both feet). However, this isn’t always the case. As mentioned above, the main symptoms are:
- Joint Pain – a throbbing and/or aching pain, which is often worse in the mornings and after long periods of inactivity.
- Joint Stiffness – joints may feel stiff and this will limit movement. Again, stiffness is worse in the mornings or after a period of inactivity.
- Swelling – The lining of the affected joints will become inflamed, causing them to swell and become hot and tender to touch. In some cases, firm swellings called rheumatoid nodules can also develop under the skin around affected joints.
As with osteoarthritis, there are also several other symptoms to look out for. Other symptoms of arthritis include:
- Weight loss.
- A loss of appetite.
- A fever.
- Lack of energy.
- Dry eyes caused by the inflammation.
- Chest pain if your heart or lungs are effected.
If you notice and of the symptoms above, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Even if you aren’t sure, it’s always better to get new symptoms checked out.
Learn more about Arthritis
Now you’ve read our guide to the symptoms of arthritis, you might want to learn more about the condition in general. Why not take a look at the in-depth guide to arthritis on our blog? It’s full of useful information about the potential causes of arthritis and the treatments available. You’ll also find some useful tips on how to cope with the condition on a daily basis.
In addition, we have a comprehensive guide to the 20 most common medical conditions which affect older people. This is well worth a read for anybody looking to learn more about staying healthy.
The Personal Alarm
For people with arthritis, mobility can be difficult enough as it is. Lots of people worry about what would happen if they were to suffer a fall. Luckily, for those with a personal alarm from Lifeline24, help is always on hand at just the touch of a button. For further information on our personal alarm service, or to order your alarm today, please speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our Contact Us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Readers of our blog can also take a look at our comprehensive guide to the personal alarm.