Is it Arthritis, or Something Else?
Getting to the bottom of the reason you may be experiencing swollen, stiff or sore joints is not always easy. If you have noticed that your joints are inflamed and painful or that your range of motion is diminished, you may have a form of arthritis.
Although there are two major forms of arthritis, known as rheumatoid (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA), there are actually over a hundred different forms of arthritis related disorders. The main difference between them is that OA is caused by wear and tear on your body, whereas RA is a form of disease known as an autoimmune disorder, in which the internal mechanisms that normally protect your body from attacks by bacteria and viruses become confused and attack your own joints and tissues instead.
Different Disorders: Overlapping Symptoms
Autoimmune disorders include fibromyalgia, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, gout and many others. Several of these disorders are known to mimic rheumatoid arthritis and can be a bit more difficult to pin down because the symptoms may overlap. Lupus, for instance, also known as SLE or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, can affect internal organs, connective tissues, blood vessels and joints. So much so that it can be fatal.
Unlike Rheumatoid arthritis however, lupus does not typically deform or erode away the joints. The joint symptoms also tend to be less severe and the disease can seem to “hop around,” hitting different joints at different times. Some patients can have both rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a strain of bacteria called borrelia burgdorferi or Bb, which is carried by ticks and can be passed to humans through a bite. Lyme disease often causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and neck stiffness, shooting pains or facial palsy. It is often accompanied by a noticeable “bull’s eye” ring around the bite. Lyme disease symptoms also usually occur in stages, which means it can be easily misdiagnosed.
Gout is another disorder that sometimes presents like rheumatoid arthritis. It is caused by high levels of uric acid that form tiny crystals within the affected joint(s). Gout is also extremely painful, even excruciating and often appears in a single joint with pain, swelling, warmth and redness. It can spread to others areas, and when left untreated can cause joint deformation that appears very similar to rheumatoid arthritis.
Get Your Symptoms Checked
If you have aching, fatigue, redness or swelling in or around your joints, or notice an unusual rash or redness on your face or other areas of your body, you should consult a doctor. While most people think of arthritis as an older person’s disease, the truth is that it and other autoimmune diseases can strike young and old alike. Your doctor can run the appropriate tests and to help determine the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan that works for you.
If you are concerned about how arthritis, or other autoimmune disorders are affecting your body, board-certified internal medicine specialist Dr. Ishan Gunawardene can help. He will take the time to talk to you, answer your questions and prescribe the necessary medications to help ease the symptoms of arthritis and other disorders. To make an appointment in Wellington or Royal Palm Beach, request an appointment online or call (561) 434-1935 today.