Osteoarthritis is a gradual disease, with symptoms that appear over a long period of time. Depending on the joints and bones that are affected, symptoms vary, some that are more severe than others.
Osteoarthritis affects over 27 million Americans each year. The symptoms mirror those of other chronic illnesses as well as show up differently depending on the patient’s lifestyle, making it hard to diagnose. However, early signs of osteoarthritis to watch for can help make an accurate diagnosis.
Early Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis
- Joint Pain: Pain that worsens with activity and finds relief after rest is suggestive of osteoarthritis. This is often one of the first signs of an issue with a joint. The discomfort of early osteoarthritis can be classified in two ways: tenderness and pain. Patients don’t always suffer from debilitating pain, but experience aches or tenderness around the joints.
- Swelling: There is naturally-occurring fluid in your joints. There is pain when the fluid builds up and causes the joints to swell. The extra fluid is created by the soft tissue that surrounds the joints.
- Loss of Flexibility: Early stages of osteoarthritis can cause body parts to not move as easily as before. Pain and stiffness contribute to this loss in flexibility and range of motion. Fully bending and extending a joint may become difficult or impossible. This has the ability to make daily activities hard to do. A loss in flexibility or range of motion is a very gradual process.
- Abnormal Sensations: The cartilage between your bones is meant to act as a “shock absorber” and to keep your joints moving smoothly. When this cartilage becomes worn out or torn, the bone-on-bone rubbing can cause abnormal sensations such as crackling, grating, or clicking can occur. Sometimes these sensations are felt, heard, or both. The bones rubbing together (grating) is common for patients with osteoarthritis.
- Joint Stiffness: Similar to joint pain, joint stiffness is commonly an early sign of osteoarthritis. Stiffness is common after sitting or lying for long periods of time. That sluggish, slow-to-move start in the morning could be an early sign of osteoarthritis. Often, joint stiffness fades as you move around and the joints have a chance to loosen up.
If you experience these symptoms regularly, talk to your doctor. Test and examinations can be performed to diagnose what is causing your pain accurately. The earlier the detection, the more effective treatments will be. Osteoarthritis does not have a cure, but is manageable and there are treatments designed to help reduce pain and to help patients who suffer with pain get back to doing the things they love.