Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, delves into arthritis in young adults, exploring its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and management.
“Arthritis is often associated with ageing, but it’s a misconception that it only affects the elderly,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“Arthritis can strike at any age, including in young adults. However, with the right treatment, support, and a positive mindset, young adults with arthritis can manage their condition and lead fulfilling lives.”
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis, in its many forms, is a group of conditions that cause joint inflammation, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. While it is indeed more common among older adults, it can also affect young adults, sometimes even during their teenage years.
When arthritis strikes in youth, it can be particularly challenging, as it disrupts the active and dynamic lives of individuals just starting to build their futures.
Types Of Arthritis Affecting Young Adults
Several types of arthritis can affect young adults, but two are particularly common:
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): This autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system assaults the synovium – the membrane lining surrounding the joints – by mistake. It typically begins in young adulthood and can affect several joints.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA): JIA is a term used to describe several types of arthritis that occur in children and adolescents, usually before age 16. Some forms of JIA can persist into adulthood.
Symptoms Of Arthritis In Young Adults
Arthritis doesn’t discriminate based on age, and the symptoms can be as debilitating for young adults as for older individuals. Common symptoms include:
- Joint Pain
- Reduced Range of Motion
Diagnosing Arthritis In Young Adults
Diagnosing arthritis in young adults can be challenging because the symptoms often overlap with those of other conditions. If you or a young adult you know is experiencing persistent joint pain or other concerning symptoms, it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider.
Affinity Health explains how the diagnosis process typically works:
Medical History: The healthcare provider will ask about the individual’s medical history, including a family history of arthritis and any recent illnesses or infections.
Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination will help assess joint inflammation, range of motion, and overall health.
Blood Tests: Blood tests, including rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies, may help identify specific types of arthritis.
Imaging: X-rays, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can provide detailed images of the joints and help diagnose underlying concerns.
Joint Fluid Analysis: If needed, a sample of joint fluid may be extracted and examined for signs of inflammation.
Management And Treatment
Various treatments and lifestyle changes can aid in managing the condition and enhance your quality of life.
Depending on the type and severity of arthritis, healthcare providers may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), or biologics to reduce inflammation and control symptoms.
A physical therapist can design exercises to improve joint mobility, strength, and function. In contrast, occupational therapists help individuals learn techniques and strategies to manage daily tasks more effectively despite weakened joints.
Pain management techniques, such as heat and cold therapy or over-the-counter pain relievers, can provide relief, while surgical interventions like joint replacement may be necessary.
Coping With Arthritis As A Young Adult
A diagnosis of arthritis can be overwhelming, but it’s crucial to remember that many young adults with arthritis live fulfilling lives. Here are some strategies for coping:
- Educate Yourself: Understanding your condition and treatment options empowers you to make informed decisions.
- Seek Support: Connect with support groups or therapy to share experiences and coping strategies.
- Advocate for Yourself: Be an active participant in your healthcare.
Communicate openly with your healthcare provider.
- Embrace Self-Care: Prioritise self-care activities that promote mental and emotional well-being.
- Set Realistic Goals: Break down your goals into achievable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed.