Arthritis may affect young people: Signs to look out for

June 2, 2021
Arthritis may affect young people: Signs to look out for

Despite popular belief, arthritis is a debilitating illness that can affect young people as well as the old. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions; this includes rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder which affects the lining of the joints. Anyone can be afflicted by RA – data shows RA affects at least eight in every 100,000 people aged between 18 to 34 years old; in Malaysia, it affects about five in 1,000 people.

According to Dr.Badrul Shah Badaruddin, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at ALTY Orthopaedic Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, few risk factors denote susceptibility to RA such as gender, genetics and lifestyle choices, including smoking and obesity. RA patients most commonly present with:

  • Joint stiffness in one or more of the smaller joints such as in the hands. This can occur at any time of the day, or after an extended period of inactivity. The stiffness is usually gradual, although it can also flare up suddenly, and greatly affects mobility;
  • Joint pain or tenderness after a bout of stiffness can be felt even at rest.  The fingers and the wrists are typically the most affected although the knees, shoulders, ankles and feet hurt too, so much so that simple day-to-day tasks such as typing or changing clothes can be an excruciating process;
  • Inflammation of the joints is also common and can cause joints to appear bigger. The inflammation can affect the tendons and ligaments, causing deformities which can decrease the range of motion;
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation due to pressure on the nerves. This can be uncomfortable and worrisome;
  • Other accompanying signs with joint stiffness or pain, including fever, or any oddities in the non-joint structures, can be indicative of RA.

Arthritis isn’t a disease that you only start to worry about when you’re well into your 50s. Aches and pains should be taken seriously even if you think it’s nothing. Pain tolerance levels for the younger generation can be high, but pain is pain and you shouldn’t ignore them – it’s your body’s way of giving you a message.

There is a clear benefit in starting treatment early when it comes to arthritis, and Dr. Badrul advises to consult a specialist at the first sign of unexplainable joint pain. Quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, limit exposure to environmental pollutions, and keep physically active to help you stay mobile and ensure your general health.

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