Angela Lundberg, a Minneapolis native, was shattered when doctors told her that the pain in her feet that had spread to her fingers was rheumatoid arthritis. She was just 18 and the only other person, who she could remember suffering from this disease, was her grandmother. What she didn’t know was that 1.3 million Americans suffering from the condition are aged between 18 to 40 years.
In women, the risk of developing the condition is almost twice that men. According to Dr, John M. Davis, a rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minneapolis, the peak age for arthritis onset is mid-50s. The increased risk in women can be linked to the effect of hormones on genetics and certain environmental factors. No exact origin of this condition has been identified, but it has been linked to genetics, smoking and other such external factors.
A common delay in diagnosis young people suffering from the condition often go undiagnosed because they do not appear sick, even though the disease wears their joint linings, damages their hearts and scars their lungs. On the part of the patient, youthfulness and denial often delays the diagnosis.
Yvonne, a 28 year old singer, was slim and had played sports all her life. She injured her knee at her job and took to physical therapy and exercise got to treat the large swelling. A few months later when she visited an orthopedic surgeon, the biopsies confirmed that she had rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis can be diagnosed by putting together its symptoms. Doctors usually look for swelling or reduced joint movement. X-ray’s and blood tests are also very useful in diagnosis. If the condition is diagnosed early, its progress can be delayed. But this is not easy as early symptoms of the disease can be very general like weakness, weight loss, muscle soreness and slight fever.
There are a host of anti-inflammatory medicines available in the market. Some have steroids, while others are steroid free. But there is no guarantee that either of them will work. Injectable biologic medications are a new innovation in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. They have made remission an achievable goal.
Physical therapy is also important for young adults who suffer from arthritis. Heat therapy has also proven successful in treating many young adults with arthritis. If the pain or deformity of the joint are extreme, surgery may be the best option. Joint replacement can add years of mobility to a person’s life.
Dr. Eric M. Ruderman, associate professor and rheumatologist at Chicago’s Northwestern University Feinberg School, states that the idea behind therapy is remission of arthritis and not only making the patients feel better. Unlike elderly patients, youngsters end up being on treatment for several decades. Modern medicine can help them prevent years of stiffness, pain and fatigue.
Today, the treatment for arthritis is more aggressive as compared to earlier methods. The treatments today focuses on reducing the diseases activity and joint deformity quickly. It is frequently recommended that biological and non-biological treatments be accompanied by non-medical treatments like physical and occupational therapy.
Dealing with Arthritis as a Young Woman
The percentage of young adults suffering from arthritis is on the rise. The reasons for this are varied and sometimes unidentified. There are numerous types of arthritis. The condition can sometimes be so severe that the patient is restricted to a wheelchair. But with the right diagnosis and treatment, it is easier to live a normal life even while suffering from the condition.
Dealing with the pain
Arthritis inevitably impacts your quality of life. The discomfort caused by the condition leads to loss of sleep, fatigue and depression. A study conducted by Ontario’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences concluded that women have a 20 percent higher chance of being disabled by arthritis than men.
Apart from the physical challenges associated with the disease, young people also have to deal with the social stigma. Gilliana Hawker, the physician-in-chief at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, states that many people are unaware of the fact that arthritis is not just restricted to old people and can affect young people as well. Apart from the social issues, it can also make it difficult to maintain a fulltime job in some cases.
Melissa Parent, an arthritis patient, claims that it is hard to maintain a social life as she cannot indulge in things like going to the mall or dancing. She has been suffering from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis from the time she was 10 years old. The disease spread all the way up to her collar bone from her ankles. It is important to remember not to push yourself when you experience pain. Consulting a doctor on appearance of symptoms like joint pain and stiffness is vital.
Managing your expectations
Arthritis has no cure. But it can be effectively managed. Medication is usually the first form of treatment. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Provailen help relive stiffness and pain. X-rays help reveal the extent of damage. The best course of treatment can be determined based on x-ray results and blood tests.
The number of joint replacement surgeries among young people is steadily increasing. This is primarily because younger generations are less willing to deal with the pain. James Waddell, an orthopedic surgeon at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, states that more than one third of his patients are under 50 years of age. He also opines that it is not easy for youngsters to convince doctors to let them have surgery. Doctors sometimes like to exhaust other methods of therapy, like oral medication, heat treatment and physical therapy, before resorting to replacement surgery.
Reducing your risk of arthritis
It is vital to eat healthy to keep arthritis at bay. Being overweight or obese increases your risk considerably. Being in the right weight bracket means less pressure on the hips, knees and ankles. Calcium is absolutely essential and so is vitamin D, as it helps your body absorb the calcium. Wearing proper shoes is also important. They support joints during movement. It is necessary to exercise as it helps keep your musculoskeletal system healthy. Shock absorbing shoes are ideal for running and walking.