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Arthritis: What are the symptoms and who is likely to contract it?

Joints ache when you first get up? Is your back bothering you more than usual? While you may not consider these 

symptoms of arthritis, they just may be the tell-tale signs of a developing arthritic condition. While arthritis can attack any area, there seems to be certain parts of the body which are affected more often than others. 

For example, the fingers are very often the very first areas attacked. Bony knobs called nodes appear on your fingers. These can enlarge your finger joints, creating a gnarled appearance. In the first several months when the arthritis first sets in, your finger joints may feel painful or stiff. They may even feel numb. After this initial pain fades, though, the knobs remain inhibiting the mobility of the joints. This condition normally runs in families. It also affects more women than men.

The spine is also affected by a slow deterioration of the disks located between the bones along your spine. This can eventually lead not only to back and neck pain, but also chronic stiffness.

You'll also discover that the joints of your body which carry the majority of your weight – joints such as hips, knees and feet – are more vulnerable to arthritis than the non-weight-bearing joints. As the cartilage in these joints slowly deteriorates throughout the years, you may develop discomfort in these areas or even a chronic pain. This pain is most noticeable when you walk or stand. You may also notice swelling in these joints. This is especially true for your knees.

So what exactly places a person at risk of developing arthritis? You'll find that this is one disease that in many instances raises more questions than it answers. And the medical community doesn't have a clear cut answer as to who exactly is the next victim of arthritis. Nor can it tell you exactly why arthritis strikes one person and not the other. There are some risk factors, though, that have been identified that put certain people are a greater risk than others.

If we were to create a composite picture of a typical arthritic victim it would look something like this:

The person would be female. And she would be at least 45 years old – probably older. This individual would be overweight – most probably obese and she probably possesses joint injuries caused by her previous activity in physical exercise and sports. Additionally, this woman probably has some disease that changes the normal structure as well as the function of the cartilage in her body, including rheumatoid arthritis or gout. And another, characteristic of our typical arthritic victim is that she probably has weak thigh muscles – medically called quadriceps – which may eventually develop into arthritis in her knees.

Arthritis: Symptoms


Think of arthritis and immediately two of its major symptoms come to mind:  pain and inflammation.  But these aren’t the only signs that your body is giving you that your joints are beginning to deteriorate.


Pain is, indeed, the hallmark symptoms of arthritis.  Its intensity varies among individuals.  It intensity also varies as the disease itself progresses.  The first signal of arthritis is a mile, minor ache.  This you’ll only feel, in fact, after you’ve used the specific joint.  As the arthritis progresses, however, a more severe, sharp pain may strike the moment the joint is used – even if it’s used just a little.


Eventually, the pain becomes so pervasive that the joint hurts even when it’s not moving.  In the most severe of cases, osteoarthritis pain disrupts sleep – which does little for the quality of life.


Stiffness is another classic signal of arthritis.  This is especially noticeable in the morning.  You may also notice that a joint affected with arthritis may lock up on you following extended periods of inactivity.  In the initial stages of arthritis, the stiffness is brief and is easily “worked out” with a little bit of activity on your part.  As the disease worsens, though, there’s a loss in the range of motion of the affected joint that will never return.


Inflammation, joint enlargement and deformity are three signals indicating the onset of arthritis that are sometimes classified together by medical experts.  As the cartilage in the joints break down, the bones not only get damaged, but your body’s regulatory mechanisms begin to fail.  This causes deformity in the joint.  Bone spurs may twist the natural contour of the joint.  These deformities make it increasingly difficult to move the bones.


These spurs are called Heberden’s nodes when they disfigure the joints closest to the fingertips.  Bouchard’s nodes cause can enlargement of the middle joints of the fingers.  In addition to these, though, your joints may also be subjected to bone cysts, gross bony overgrowth as well as bowed legs and knocked knees.


Associated with deformity and inflammation is fluid retention.  For some people, this is a very serious problem.  Some medical professionals have been known to extract as much as four ounces of fluid from a single joint.  That’s a half cup!


Joint creaking most frequently strikes the knees.  This symptom usually only occurs in the more advanced cases of this disease.  And the symptom is exactly what the name implies:  it’s a cracking sound and crushing feeling.  The causes of this particular symptom may vary. For some people, this occurs because the bones of the joint are rubbing together during routine use.  In some cases it may occur during a medial examination. Sometimes the creaking of the knees is so loud that it can actually be heard across an entire room.  While it sound horrible, it’s almost always painless.  If there’s any pain, it’s usually nothing more serious than a dull sensation.


Arthritis strikes any joint.  But it’s not your imagination.  Arthritis does, indeed, seem to target a favorite joint.  Most frequently they are the fingers, the weight bearing joints like the knees or hips and some joints in the feet.  Two other favorite targets of arthritis are the neck and lower back.


This disease appears in one or more joints throughout your body, striking in a seemingly random way.  If you develop arthritis in your finger, for example, it doesn’t mean that the next joint affected will be your neck.  In fact, it doesn’t even guarantee that another joint will be affected.


It seems, however, that arthritis seldom strikes in a symmetrical pattern.  It seldom strikes both knees at the same time, or both hips.



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