Arthritis is a force to be reckoned with. It is a leading cause of disability in Canada. It can devastate a promising career, destroy a child’s eyesight and deplete a person’s independence. Arthritis can transform the simplest aspects of daily life into insurmountable obstacles. It should never be ignored. Recognizing and dealing with all your symptoms early on offers the most promise for being able to manage your arthritis.
Pain is often the most obvious symptom. It is usually the driving force behind someone taking action to deal with their arthritis. When pain can be eliminated, the motivation to manage the arthritis may disappear too. This is unfortunate. You may be surprised to learn that damage to the joints can still occur even when pain is under control. That pain may be under control for the time being but unless you are taking steps to manage your arthritis, the pain will rear its ugly head again.
With arthritis, there are some other physical symptoms that you can watch for. If you are stiff, how long does it take for your joints to loosen up when you try to move them? Less than 30 minutes? More than 1 hour? Is your stiffness worse in the morning or at the end of the day? Is it in one part of your body or many? Did this come on suddenly in the past few weeks or has it been gradual, slowly getting worse over many years? Are your joints red or do they feel hot? Is there swelling that won’t go away? Are you aware of losing your ability to do things such as reaching to pick something up, doing up buttons on a shirt, preparing a meal, or climbing stairs?
Arthritis comes with emotional symptoms as well. You may be worried that your arthritis will prevent you from working or caring for your family as you want to? Are you concerned about what your future will be? Can you afford treatments and medications? Do you find yourself saying “no” to invitations because you’re just not sure how you’ll feel? Are you feeling increasingly frustrated, grumpy or angry that arthritis is holding you back? You may feel very alone if family, friends or coworkers don’t understand. Anxiety, increased stress, grief and depression are other symptoms associated with arthritis that need to be addressed.
Fatigue is another common symptom associated with some types of arthritis. Fatigue goes beyond feeling sleepy. Fatigue is the exhaustion that can make carrying out the daily activities hard to do. It can be a result of the arthritis itself or from the hard work of dealing with the physical and emotional aspects of arthritis.
There are other symptoms such as changes in your skin, your nails, or eye infections that show up with specific types of arthritis. If you have any changes, always mention them to your doctor as they may provide essential clues for diagnosing your type of arthritis.
It may feel overwhelming to look at all the problems that arthritis is causing you. There is a bright side. By becoming aware of these issues and putting a plan in place for dealing with them, you’ll find that you can start to take charge. You will be managing your arthritis instead of arthritis managing you.
Trudy Battaglio has her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Political Science (Community Development). Trudy is Manager of Education & Services with The Arthritis Society in the Interior, BC, and manages The Arthritis Society’s Kelowna Arthritis Centre.
For more information about arthritis and The Arthritis Society - www.arthritis.ca
Thanks Kelowna – You Helped Us to Raise $21,000 for Arthritis Research and Programming at The Walk to Fight Arthritis on June 10, 2012