Growing older can be tough. Though you can develop conditions or injuries at any point in your life, it sometimes seems that there are more conditions about which you need to worry later on. There may be signs when you're younger that you might be more likely to develop certain conditions later on. The signs you might have arthritis later in life, for example, aren't as obvious as you may have expected, and that's partially why it's so important to recognize which things might be warning signs and related to a particular condition, and which might be less potentially worrisome.
Arthritis isn't one specific condition, as WebMD noted — there are a number of different types — and people can develop a form of arthritis at any age, even though the condition (conditions?) might be things that you relate more closely to old age. It can be super painful and uncomfortable and majorly interfere with people's lives. There are a number of potential treatment options if you do find that you might be starting to develop arthritis, ranging from medication to surgery, dietary changes, and more. If you suspect that you might be developing arthritis — or may be at risk of developing it — having an honest conversation with your doctor about your risk level, symptoms, and potential treatment options can help the both of you get to the bottom of things and develop a comprehensive plan to help prevent the condition or treat it, should you develop it in the future.
1. You Wake Up With Wrist Or Elbow Stiffness
Stiffness in your wrists and elbows when you wake up is a potential super early (and subtle) sign that full-blown arthritis might actually be in your future. Healthline noted that if wrist or elbow stiffness lasts longer than an hour, that's a potential early sign of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects your joints. There are a number of different early symptoms, but if you're dealing with any swelling, stiffness, or pain, going to the doctor is a good place to start.
2. Swollen Ankles & Other Injuries Take Forever To Heal
Everyone hurts themselves accidentally from time to time. It's almost impossible to not ever trip over something, bump into something, burn yourself while cooking or doing your hair, or land funny when running or jumping. But if your injuries don't seem to heal very rapidly, that could potentially be another sneaky indicator that you might develop arthritis at some point.
In an interview with Health, Dr. Lisa A. Mandl, MD, MPH, a rheumatologist, said that this particular symptom of rheumatoid arthritis tends to crop up more commonly in those who are younger, so if your sprained ankle or swollen knee just doesn't seem to be getting any better, raising the subject of rheumatoid arthritis with your doctor or physical therapist might help them determine the cause more quickly.
3. You're Tired All The Time
Fatigue can result from just about anything, including kids waking you up in the middle of the night or your partner's snoring. So you might not actually initially catch on that this could, in fact, be a symptom of arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation noted that a number of symptoms that don't seem to be related to arthritis, but are — like fatigue — can make the condition a bit more difficult to diagnose. If you have a number of symptoms and are asking yourself if it could be super early signs of the condition, it's worth going to the doctor and finding out what you can.
4. You've Gotten Certain Infections
If you contract certain infections, they too could potentially cause you to experience arthritis or arthritis-like symptoms. Medical News Today noted that some infections, like Lyme disease, can actually result in arthritis. Eating more anti-inflammatory foods and fewer of those that might cause your immune system to respond to their presence might also help you keep your symptoms under control, the site added.
5. You Feel Tingling Or Numbness In Your Hands Or Feet
Tingling and numbness in your hands or feet can also be a sign that you might develop arthritis. A different Medical News Today article noted that tingling and numbness in hands and feet can be an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis specifically, because of the inflammation that's compressing nerves in these areas. If you're a smoker, you might be at a greater risk of developing RA, as a 2009 study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy found, so these sorts of early, subtle symptoms are those about which you might want to be more aware.
6. You've Injured Yourself In The Past
It's hard to go through your entire life without injuring yourself in any way, but if you have, in fact, injured yourself in the past (such as if you hurt yourself while playing sports as a kid), you might actually be at greater risk of developing arthritis later in life than if you hadn't hurt yourself. Mayo Clinic noted that injuries to your joints might predispose you to later joint issues, such as arthritis. It makes sense, if you think about it.
Taking some pain medications, avoiding nightshade vegetables if you're sensitive to them, avoiding any foods that might result in an immune response, and, of course, working with your doctor to figure out what else might be best for you might all help you manage your condition more effectively.
7. You Have A Family History Of Arthritis
If your family members experienced arthritis in their older years, then you may want to keep an eye out for symptoms yourself. Though it's obviously not a given, if you have a family history of arthritis, you might be more likely to develop the condition, as the aforementioned article from Mayo Clinic noted.
Being open and honest with what's going on with your doctor is important, particularly if you have a family history of arthritis or have other risk factors (men and women are at higher risks for different kinds, for example). Arthritis can cause some serious issues if you struggle to find a way to manage it, so catching it early and developing a treatment plan in conjunction with your doctor can make a real difference.