3 Clues It's Not Osteoarthritis
Since osteoarthritis (OA) is a common musculoskeletal problem that most people will face at some point in their life, it is easy to believe that aches and pains are the start of OA. OA is distinctly different from autoimmune diseases where the predominate or secondary symptom is arthritis. There are several symptoms that point toward problems other than OA.
Multiple Joint Involvement
Typically, OA affects a single joint, but there may be multiple joints that are eventually affected by OA. When there are multiple joints affected by pain, swelling, or damage, it is usually a sign the underlying process is autoimmune. The specific joints affected may also be a clue to whether the problem is autoimmune, as well as to the specific type of disease. For example, although rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint, it commonly affects the small joints in the fingers and toes, which is uncommon in OA. Ankylosing spondylitis affects the axial skeleton, which includes the pelvis, spine, and ribs, which is typically not seen in OA and other forms of inflammatory arthritis.
Many people who are eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disease originally think they have the flu. The combination of full-body aches and pains coupled with fevers and chills is easy to associate with the flu or some other viral infection in the beginning. When your immune system is hyperactive, which occurs in autoimmune diseases, fevers are common because your immune system is constantly fighting a foreign invader that does not exist. Fevers are a frequent occurrence for people during flareups of their disease. A flareup is an episode where symptoms become worse, and there may be disease progression during this time.
Unintentional Weight Loss
Unintentional weight loss is another common symptom seen together with joint pain when the problem is not OA. The weight loss can occur because of various reasons. When the disease develops, some people lose their appetite and generally feel severely fatigued. Another culprit of weight loss could be a higher metabolism associated with increased immune system activity. As the disease progresses, many people are unable to remain physically active and may lose significant amounts of lean body mass. Muscle mass commonly lessens as a person becomes more sedentary, but bone loss also occurs. Chronic inflammation of the joints can lead to lowered bone density and eventually osteoporosis in some people.
Aches and pains are easy to blame on growing older or on OA. If you believe you are developing OA, take into consideration the other symptoms you have because the problem may be more serious. And make sure to see a rheumatologist for help diagnosing the actual problem.