arthritis at 30?
September 18, 2012 9:39 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal to be developing arthritis in my fingers at 30, or should I be looking for a new doctor?

One finger has been achey, down right painful in one joint, and its swollen and warm. After waiting for it to go away for a week I finally went to the doctor.
He squeezed my finger a few times, said its probably a little arthritis, told me to take ibuprofen, and left.
Ive had issues with him before but it took me a long time to find a doctor that speaks English as well as he does.
If arthritis in the fingers is not unheard of at 30, what should I do about it? My fingers are quite handy, I'd like to keep using them.
posted by gally99 to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My husband had this happen just about a year ago. It turned out to be arthritis -- but autoimmune, not osteo. Treatment for autoimmune arthritis is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than managing osteoarthritis; you want a referral to a rheumatologist (or, at the very least, a rheumatology blood panel) ASAP.
posted by KathrynT at 9:42 PM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

What KathrynT said. It's not outside the realm of possibility that you've developed osteoarthritis at age 30, but it's worth getting a second opinion and/or seeing a rheumatologist.

(I developed psoriatic arthritis in my late 20s, didn't see a doctor about it for years, and now have permanent damage in my fingers and neck. If I'd gone to see a doctor sooner, I probably could have avoided at least some of that.)
posted by asterix at 9:50 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is gout a possibility? I don't think it's usually a hand thing but the suddenness and the swelling sounds like it. If you eat a lot of red meat and/or fatty foods, it might be something to look at.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:21 PM on September 18, 2012

I developed a variant of rheumatoid arthritis in my fingers at 25. It's worth getting checked out.
posted by dr. boludo at 11:10 PM on September 18, 2012

I think the part where he just told you to take a few ibuprofen is more problematic than the diagnosis itself - it's certainly possible to have arthritis at 30, but (as I understand it, based on several family members' experiences) there are many different treatment and management options if that is what it turns out to be. Nthing the suggestion that you visit a rheumatologist.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:26 PM on September 18, 2012

That's more what I was wondering about, DingoMutt.
I'm getting the impression that if arthritis is a possibility then "deal with it" is not the response I should be getting from my doctor.
I'll be looking for a new doctor this week I guess, and I'll get a referral from the new one.
Thanks people!
posted by gally99 at 12:12 AM on September 19, 2012

Yeah, you should get it checked out by a doctor who takes it a bit more seriously. They've found with rheumatoid arthritis that it's easier to halt damage before it gets too severe than to try and fix damaged joints after-the-fact. If your fingers are swelling as well as hurting, and a doc figures out that it is, in fact, rheumatoid arthritis, they should work fairly aggressively with you to get the swelling down, because that is often a sign that damage is being done to the joint. All of which means that it would be much better for you to get it figured out now, rather than waiting and hoping it just goes away on its own. Additionally, typical rheumatoid arthritis shows up first in the hands and feet. All good reasons to go see a real rheumatologist. While you're waiting for an appointment, try using heat against the swelling: unlike other swelling, arthritis (of any sort I think) responds better to heat than to cold.
posted by colfax at 3:04 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

It could be autoimmune arthritis, see a specialist ASAP, it could be a warning to something else. I have no intention of scaring you, at the same time, it could very much be a possibility. Do not, I repeat, do not, use Advil and/or Alleve indiscriminately. If your doc asks you the same, refuse and take a second opinion.

A question, how often do you get headaches, stomach upset etc?
posted by zaxour at 3:08 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Picked up post-viral arthritis a couple of times in my mid-late 20s. All there was to do back then was take enough ibuprofen to stun a camel, and wait it out. Treatment may have improved since then, but it's entirely shitty when it happens.
posted by scruss at 4:52 AM on September 19, 2012

Osteoarthritis in my hip, unintentionally diagnosed by x-rays taken after I fell off a horse, at age 25... So not unheard of, sadly. Besides getting a better diagnosis (osteo and autoimmune are definitely two different beasts), a normal component of treatment is modifying your behavior. For me this mostly means modifying how much exercise I do on days when the weather is changing, making sure that I stay warm when the temperature drops, and only taking ibuprofen on really bad days. For you it might mean looking at things that you do with your hands... Do you knit/crochet? That's hell on your hands, but using more ergonomic tools and changing your technique can help. How about typing? Sometimes you can switch your typing style around so you're not using the painful finger so much. You get the idea, just tailor it to whatever you actually do. On top of that, look at wearing gloves/fingerless gloves/glove-mittens on colder days, even inside.
posted by anaelith at 5:01 AM on September 19, 2012

If it's only on one finger, it's less likely to be rheumatoid arthritis; autoimmune arthritides are usually bilateral (two-sided). That said, if you have sudden swelling in a finger, it's definitely worth having a more in-depth review done. It's likely nothing dangerous- that's why the doctor squeezed your finger, to make sure the swelling felt normal- but it's always good to be safe and get a second opinion, especially if you think your doctor's inattentive.

The typical advice for decreasing swelling is to Rest the area, Ice the area, Compress the area and Elevate the area, this reduces swelling. Ice/cold packs are left on for five minute to ten minute increments. Compression is gentle. This is not medical advice and IANYD.
posted by windykites at 5:13 AM on September 19, 2012

Same thing happened to me, and yes, it is osteo-arthritis. Ibuprophen is a typical treatment—any anti-inflammatory drug, really. If ibuprophen doesn't help, however, call your doctor and explain because there are many, many other options.

You should fully expect that the swelling will go away in time, but might show up again in a different finger or joint. Welcome to arthritis. :(
posted by Eicats at 7:44 AM on September 19, 2012

Yeah, same thing happened to me ~age 30, except it was my knees (I also like my knees and would like to keep using them). Flash forward to fifteen years later and I still have arthritis in my knees and doctors are still telling me to take OTC meds for it. *shrug* What are you going to do? My experience has been that if the first one isn't overly concerned about it then the next one isn't going to be either. Then again, I could just have a had a run of *really* bad doctors.
posted by patheral at 7:52 AM on September 19, 2012

Also diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at 29 (which presented in fingers, among other joints).

But I also have had osteoarthritis for a long time, too (knee), just due to the angle of my femur (or something), so it's not out of the question, though I don't know how common that would be in fingers.
posted by Pax at 8:38 AM on September 19, 2012

Same thing happened to me, and yes, it is osteo-arthritis.

OP, please remember that no one hear actually knows that it's the "same thing" as happened to them or how you should be treated. I take a serious DMARD (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug) for arthritis that docs initially thought was chondromalacia (which I also did have), a meniscus tear, etc. If I hadn't gotten diagnosed properly, my joints could have serious damage by now.

It could be that NSAIDS will end up being your treatment, but we just don't know.
posted by Pax at 8:42 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

You should see a rheumatologist to rule out autoimmune arthritis. Autoimmune arthritis needs to be treated aggressively; it not only damages joints, but can have an effect on the heart, liver, and pancreas.

Get a referral to a rheumatologist, not to another general practitioner.

Best of luck!
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:17 AM on September 19, 2012

Definitely see a rheumatologist.

How are your teeth? Really. I have a family member who did not take good care of his teeth in his 20s and 30s and had terrible non-spondylosis arthritis that, even under treatment, never really got better. Until he had all of his teeth capped. We think that due to the poor condition of his teeth and gums, it was causing some kind of infection that kept his immune system flared up and attacking his joints. By capping the teeth, this blocked how the infection was entering his blood stream.

I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. This is merely an anecdote on a (small) possibility.
posted by jillithd at 11:58 AM on September 19, 2012

It is possible to have an autoimmune arthritis that affects only one joint. I had a swollen achey wrist for a few years that surgery took care of (because I was referred to a surgeon rather than a rheumatologist) and once that went away, the arthritis has attacked one finger. It has been swollen for two years. This all started in my mid 20's. I regularly see a rheumatologist just for the one finger. My rheumatologist thinks that Enbrel would clear it right up and is willing to treat just the one finger (but I think that's too agressive, so I have chosen to take Plaquenil, which helps but less). She also insists on monitoring by checking in with me and by x-ray and MRI to detect any further damage and damage starting somewhere else - it's not the fact that you have one swollen finger that's serious (although if it is troublesome to you, the doctor should be offering real solutions to that symptom); it's the fact that your body is attacking your finger and may attack somewhere else.

tl;dr See rheumatologist, who should take your symptoms seriously, especially if you have gone through the course of ibuprofen with no improvement (no more than the package says, unless your gp gave you a longer span!). They may be able to help with the symptoms and will surely be interested in the bigger picture.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:46 PM on September 19, 2012

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