ZocdocAnswersWhat are the early warning signs of arthritis?

Question

What are the early warning signs of arthritis?

I am a 24 year old office worker, and I was concerned about developing pains in my hands. I understand that arthritis is not curable, but treating it early and often should help. I have from time to time experienced a dull ache in my fingers, but it usually only lasts a day or two. I do crack my knuckles from time to time, but I do believe that the myth of cracking your knuckles leading to arthritis is false. Thanks!

Answer

Hand pain is a common complaint. There are many causes of this, including arthritis as you correctly mention. I would recommend that you see your doctor to have this evaluated. There are early signs that your doctor can help diagnose and potentially treat. Firstly, as you mention cracking your knuckles has no long term effects on the joints. It is a myth as you mention. This noise comes from the change in pressure in the joint causing the fluid to "pop." As for arthritis, this is inflammation of the joints. There are many causes of arthritis. The most common cause is osteoarthritis, which is the degeneration of the joint over time. It is unlikely that a young person as yourself is having this, although possible given your extreme work. The first signs of this are joint pain, tenderness and swelling. As you say, this is not curable, but very treatable. There are other forms of arthritis that occur more often in people your age. Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammation of the joints caused by the immune system accidentally attacking the joints, is possibly more common. Overuse of the hands can cause tendonitis of the hands -- which is inflammation of the tendons. This is likely the more likely cause of your symptoms. Talk to your primary care doctor. This should be evaluated.

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