Sudden onset arthritis in a 37-year old?
June 9, 2012 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Thirty-something woman with no history experiencing sudden-onset arthritis due to change in geography/altitude/climate? Details after the jump.

My family is likely moving from the West Coast to Denver, CO in little over a month. We flew out there to visit for several days a few weeks ago, and I began developing stiff, sore, achy sensation in my hands. Both hands affected, but much more severe in the right. Fast forward about 2.5 weeks since returning, and my left hand has gradually been restored to near normal function. Right hand has improved, but still having difficulty with anything requiring more than minimal dexterity, and I'm right-handed.

Feels arthritic or, what I would imagine arthritis feels like, since it's never happened to me before. Is this normal? What is causing this? And am I dooming myself to a life of premature, mobility-challenged, arthritic misery by choosing to move to Denver? I'm only 37, with no history of health problems!
posted by petitemom to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What does your doctor say?
posted by rtha at 8:06 PM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Peripheral edema (swelling in the hands, feet and/or face) might be a symptom of altitude sickness. Please do talk to your doctor, and get recommendations quickly for a new physician in Denver (possibly a sports doctor) that is even more familiar with altitude sickness prevention and treatment, if that is indeed the culprit.
posted by argonauta at 8:28 PM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No swelling or edema; just very stiff and achy in the hands. I have not seen a doctor yet but will make an appointment. I'm wondering whether this is a common occurrence when people move to a different elevation/climate, and if it's temporary until the body adjusts. Anyone else ever hear of this type of arthritis?
posted by petitemom at 8:55 PM on June 9, 2012

You've had children? Women who have been pregnant tend to be more prone to autoimmune diseases than men, according to what a half-listened to Radio Lab short. You may have some kind of rheumatica developing. My partner's mom visited from the Midwest and had an onset of what was diagnosed as polymyalgia rheumatica.

Maybe it was just triggered by the physical stress of traveling. Go see a doctor for sure and soon before it gets completely debilitating.
posted by discopolo at 9:06 PM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you taken any new medicines? I had very similar symptoms after taking Cipro when I was in college, they cleared up after I stopped taking it (I seem to recall that other antibiotics can sometimes have similar side effects).
posted by janewman at 12:42 AM on June 10, 2012

How have you ruled out edema? I have medical issues that cause edema in my hands and I can experience the kind of aching you describe even when my hands are not visibly swollen. It doesn't take much.
posted by camyram at 10:44 AM on June 10, 2012

a note in response to discopolo's comment: women in general -- regardless of whether or not they have ever been pregnant -- are more likely than men to develop many of the autoimmune diseases.
posted by Corvid at 6:13 PM on June 10, 2012

Response by poster: Saw my doctor today and she ordered blood tests as well as an xray of my hands. She doesn't think my symptoms have anything to do with Denver; that could be good or bad. I'll know more once I get the results of my labwork and xrays.

In any case, no new meds to speak of, and I have had two pregnancies, for what it's worth. Edema may be a factor after all; dr. noticed some swelling in my hands even though they didn't look swollen to me. I guess we shall see. Appreciate everyone's input in the meantime.
posted by petitemom at 6:13 PM on June 11, 2012

Have your spouse close your eyes and feel your hands; mine is very adept at telling when I'm stressed out and swelling; it can be hard to see with the naked eye, especially when you look at your own hands all day.

Good luck.
posted by tilde at 12:43 PM on June 20, 2012

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