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Recognizing the Warning Signs of Arthritis

Arthritis can strike anyone at any time, and the warning signs easily can be confused with conditions that don't require medical attention. Almost everyone has had an ache or pain at some time or has overextended himself or herself physically, but it's important to know what is minor and temporary, and what may be serious and long term. Knowing the signs of arthritis to watch for can make a difference in your arthritic pain treatment and your outlook for personal comfort.

Here are some typical warning signs of arthritis:

  • Joint pain: This includes not only steady, ever-present pain, but also off-again-on-again pain — pain that occurs only when you're moving or only when you're sitting still. In fact, if your joints hurt in any way for more than two weeks, you should see your doctor. The sooner you're able to determine what's hurting and why, the earlier you can start a prescribed course of treatment.
  • Stiffness or difficulty in moving a joint: If you have trouble getting out of bed, unscrewing a jar lid, climbing the stairs, or doing anything else that involves moving your joints, consider it a red flag. Although difficulty moving a joint is most often the result of a muscular condition, it can be a sign of arthritis.
  • Swelling: If the skin around a joint is red, puffed up, hot, throbbing, or painful to the touch, you're experiencing joint inflammation, possibly arthritic inflammation. Don't wait. See your doctor.

The warning signs of arthritis may come in triplicate (pain plus stiffness plus swelling), two together, or one all alone. On the other hand, you may experience other early signs such as malaise or muscle pain. However, if you experience any of these or other symptoms in or around a joint for longer than two weeks, you should see your doctor.

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