How do you know if your joint symptoms mean you have arthritis? Only a health care professional can tell you for sure, but certain signs usually point to arthritis. There are four important warning signs that should prompt you to talk to a health care provider.
Pain from arthritis can be constant or it may come and go. It may occur when at rest or while moving. Pain may be in one part of the body or in many different parts.
Some types of arthritis cause the skin over the affected joint to become red and swollen, feeling warm to the touch. Swelling that lasts for three days or longer or occurs more than three times a month should prompt a visit to the doctor.
This is a classic arthritis symptom, especially when waking up in the morning or after sitting at a desk or riding in a car for a long time. Morning stiffness that lasts longer than an hour is good reason to suspect arthritis.
4. Difficulty moving a joint.
It shouldn’t be that hard or painful to get up from your favorite chair.
Your experience with these symptoms will help your doctor pin down the type and extent of arthritis. Before visiting the doctor, keep track of your symptoms for a few weeks, noting what is swollen and stiff, when, for how long and what helps ease the symptoms. Be sure to note other types of symptoms, even if they seem unrelated, such as fatigue or rash. If you have a fever along with these symptoms you may need to seek immediate medical care.
If the doctor suspects arthritis, they will perform physical tests to check the range of motion in your joints, asking you to move the joint back and forth. The doctor may also check passive range of motion by moving the joint for you. Any pain during a range of motion test is a possible symptom of arthritis. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and may order lab tests as needed.
Most people start with their primary care physician, but it’s possible to be referred to doctors who specialize in treating arthritis and related conditions. Getting an accurate diagnosis is an important step to getting timely medical care for your condition.