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March 19, 2012 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Am I too young to have arthritis?

Lately my joints, but especially my knees, have been achy and painful. If I don't sit with my legs extended straight out it eventually becomes pretty uncomfortable. It seems to be worse in my right knee than in my left.

I am 28 -- am I just starting to feel the wear and tear of age? Both of my parents have knee problems, but I don't think my mom's started until her forties, and my dad's were due to trauma.

If this is in the normal range then I'll just keep taking NSAIDs for it, otherwise I can see a doctor. Medical care here is a bit cursory though (U.S. military hospital -- always short staffed and rushed) so I'd prefer to avoid it unless it's really necessary.

I am on a beta blocker for heart palpitations and hormonal birth control, but I don't think joint pain is a side effect for those medications. (Am I wrong?) I am not overweight, but lately my only exercise has been 30 minute or so walks several times a week along with household chores.
posted by Arethusa to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's possible to get rheumatoid arthritis at your age. It's different from the 'wear-and-tear' osteoarthritis. If you can, get it checked out, as it can worsen quickly in some cases. Good luck.
posted by lukemeister at 5:56 AM on March 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The osteoarthritis I have (thanks to a trauma several years ago) really only flares up when the joint - an ankle, in my case - has been repeatedly impacted. Running, or long walks in bad shoes, that sort of thing. It gets stiff during certain times of the year but is usually something I can just sort of ignore. Rheumatoid arthritis is, as I understand it, a different animal entirely. My wife is just beginning to get a bit of in one thumb, per her family history. For her, it flares up when she bangs her hand or puts stress on it in certain ways (lifting a child, for example).

I'd probably head in to see an orthopedist if my joints started aching all the time in the way you describe.
posted by jquinby at 5:58 AM on March 19, 2012

You're not too young. If you want an actual diagnosis, you should see your doc. I
posted by rtha at 6:01 AM on March 19, 2012

I know someone who was born with a form of arthritis, so by that benchmark you are not too young.
posted by tel3path at 6:18 AM on March 19, 2012

Best answer: Yeah, auto-immune arthritis doesn't care about age. Some forms, like ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and the arthritis associated with IBD, most commonly develop in people in their 20s and 30s, and there are a number of types of auto-immune arthritis that strike children. They have nothing to do with wear and tear and everything to do with our bodies declaring war on themselves.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:23 AM on March 19, 2012

If you are taking a statin, joint pain is a known side affect.
posted by AugustWest at 6:42 AM on March 19, 2012

Nope. My mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis around age 30.
posted by worbel at 6:42 AM on March 19, 2012

My mom was diagnosed with an autoimmune arthritis in her mid-30s; it sucks, but it happens. You should get it checked out. I hope it's something less chronic.
posted by SoftRain at 7:16 AM on March 19, 2012

Best answer: I was diagnosed with "probably rheumatoid arthritis" at age 30. In retrospect, I'm guessing the "random" knee pain I used to experience when sitting on higher chairs (with the weight of my legs hanging from my knees) is probably the first symptom I experienced (though RA can start in many places and anything between gradually to very sudden). Go see a doctor as soon as you can: if it's RA, you really do want to catch it and get put on medication as early as possible: medication serves to stop or slow the disease's progression, which you really do want to do because there is no cure and no turning back the damage once it's done. Hopefully that's not what you've got, but better to be safe than sorry. Best of luck!
posted by springbound at 7:21 AM on March 19, 2012

I was diagnosed at 25. Not too young.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:21 AM on March 19, 2012

Same here, I was diagnosed at 28.
posted by LN at 7:23 AM on March 19, 2012

I've had arthritis since my early 20's. Its a bitch that can get you at any age.
posted by handbanana at 7:34 AM on March 19, 2012

I had an ex that had rheumatoid arthritis when we met. She was 18.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:58 AM on March 19, 2012

Don't see an orthopedist; that's a surgical specialty. Start with your primary care physician and then get a referral to a rheumatologist.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I started getting (post-dance and post-gymnastics) wear and tear arthritis at about 28 or so. Tbh, though, I'd find it somewhat odd for someone to get regular run of the mill arthritis so young unless they had a past history of body-torturous sports.
posted by elizardbits at 9:02 AM on March 19, 2012

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 12. You're not too young.
posted by terrierhead at 9:03 AM on March 19, 2012

I was diagnosed with RA at 16. My dad was diagnosed at 15. My husband was diagnosed at 25.

No one is too young to have arthritis, especially RA. There are documented cases of children being diagnosed with RA as young as six months old.

Even if it is not RA, there isn't some magical age where you are suddenly old enough to develop symptoms. It depends on injuries, genetics, and any number of other factors.
posted by strixus at 9:18 AM on March 19, 2012

You could have a form of arthritis, but you might not. Lots of things can cause joint pain. It's best if you can get checked by a doctor or specialist.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:06 PM on March 19, 2012

Is there any way for you to get treatment off-base? Japan has an excellent medical system.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:08 PM on March 19, 2012

Nthing that it could be arthritis in that you're not too young, but that you should get it checked out. There are always other possibilities.
posted by immlass at 1:41 PM on March 19, 2012

Best answer: I was diagnosed with RA at 22. It's probably not what I have now, but just nthing the fact that you are not too young.

The key is whether it's bilateral or not. If it is, it's likely RA or another autoimmune disorder. If it's not, it is likely osteoarthritis hitting early.

There are simple blood tests for these kinds of things, although they aren't always definitive. I have "sero-negative RA" which is basically lupus, only it's not, because it's also kinda like RA, only I don't have the marker in my bloodwork. Sigh.

Yeah, get it checked. Blood work is pretty easy and non-invasive.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:40 PM on March 19, 2012

1. Go to a doctor.

2. Try experimenting with your food. I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis at a pretty young age. The pain and inflammation from that progressed into all kinds of unpleasantness. Then a few years ago I cut wheat, artificial sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats from my diet and it's all gone.

Try it.
posted by natteringnabob at 4:15 PM on March 19, 2012

Best answer: I am currently working for a study that looks at people with arthritis between 25 and 65. While lot of the younger people have inflammatory arthritis (eg rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile arthritis), lots of people under 40, under 30 even, have osteoarthritis (OA aka degenerative arthritis).

If your pain is concentrated in one or two joints - like your knees - it's likely OA. But if you have joint pain all over your body, that could be something else.

I'm 34, and I have a touch of OA in my knees, which I started feeling a couple of years ago. Maybe I have some genetic disposition, definitely lots of wear and tear (squatting, sitting cross-legged - this is stressful on your knees). They have no idea what really causes OS though.

OA doesn't have fancy drugs like some of the inflammatory arthritis (IA) conditions do - but there are treatments. Exercise in general is good; there are also specific exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles around your knee and relieve the joint somewhat -- like sitting in a straight chair and straightening your leg right out in front of you, maybe with an ankle weight.
posted by jb at 10:10 PM on March 19, 2012

Best answer: I have mild osteoarthritis in my right hip, diagnosed by x-rays taken after a fall when I was 25, which explains why my hip aches sometimes. I have a similar, undiagnosed, ache in my right ankle and knee. My best guess is that the wear in my leg was aggravated by early childhood sports.

The thing that seems off here is that you're taking NSAIDs fairly regularly, it sounds like? That level of pain seems out of line with early OA and a fairly gentle life style. Also, the NSAIDs can really do a number on your stomach if you take them frequently. For me, I would make it a priority to work on lifestyle factors that can mitigate the pain (in this case, sitting with your leg out as much as possible) and if you still find yourself reaching for the pain pills regularly, then I would head to the doctor.
posted by anaelith at 7:38 AM on March 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for the input, all. It sounds like I'm off to the doctor to make sure it's not anything that needs treatment. I didn't play rugby or tackle football or anything in my youth, but I did more sports than is probably typical so it may have something to do with that. I will update if I can ever get a straight answer out of the doctors here.
posted by Arethusa at 8:50 AM on March 21, 2012

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