The lesser-known symptoms of arthritis

A senior Asian woman sits on a couch while rubbing her hands in discomfort

Pain in your joints is the most common symptom of arthritis.

But did you know a persistent cough could be a sign of certain types of arthritis? So can anemia, or a rash.

Types of arthritis

There are many symptoms and types of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis. It’s caused by wear and tear on your joints that reduces the cushioning between your bones. That leads to pain, most often in your knees, hips and spine.

Some other types of arthritis are triggered by an autoimmune disorder, which causes your body to mistakenly attack the cushioning in your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are both caused by an autoimmune disorder. Arthritis caused by an autoimmune disorder is also called inflammatory arthritis because it constantly activates your body’s immune system, which attacks your joints.

You can get inflammatory arthritis at any age. Along with pain in your joints, an inflammatory arthritis can cause several other symptoms as well.

Little-known signs of arthritis include:

  • Rashes
  • Bone fractures
  • Breathing problems
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Painful eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Anemia
  • Hair loss
  • Increased risk of stroke or heart attack

Not everyone will have all of these symptoms, but if you have an inflammatory arthritis, you may experience several of the symptoms. The symptoms may not happen all at once. Sometimes the first symptom isn’t pain in your joints but instead a rash or hair loss. Then joint pain comes years later.

Arthritis can affect the whole body

An inflammatory arthritis can affect almost all your organs. It can trigger symptoms throughout your body. Most types of inflammatory arthritis put you at higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack because the constant triggering of your body’s immune system is harmful to your body. It causes plaque to build up in your arteries, which slowly narrows your blood vessels, blocking blood flow.

Nearly half of people with rheumatoid arthritis eventually have symptoms that affect their skin, eyes, lungs and heart.

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that may develop if you have psoriasis, a chronic skin disease that produces a rash. The rash may appear before or after pain in your joints begins.

Get arthritis diagnosed as early as possible

An inflammatory arthritis can be difficult to diagnose because some of the symptoms such as dry mouth, hair loss, cough, shortness of breath, anemia and rashes, could be signs of a lot of other disorders as well.

Most types of inflammatory arthritis are treatable, though they cannot be cured.

For any type of arthritis, it’s hard to reverse the damage already done, such as deformities in your joints and lung fibrosis, which is when tissues in your lungs become scarred and stiffened, making it difficult to breathe.

It’s much easier to prevent both through medication. So, the earlier you get diagnosed, the better.

Osteoarthritis caused by wear and tear on your joints is also best taken care of if it’s diagnosed early on. If you lose weight and exercise regularly when you first get osteoarthritis, you’ll fare better and have less pain.

Does arthritis hurt all the time?

Typically, yes. But that can vary. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your joints generally hurt more in the morning when you first wake up. However, if you have osteoarthritis, pain typically is more common in the evening.

At the early stages of some inflammatory arthritis types such as gout, pain can be off and on. In the later stages of the disease, the pain will be more consistent.

What makes arthritis pain go away?

If you have any type of arthritis, it helps if you:

  • manage your weight.
  • exercise regularly, especially by doing strengthening exercises.
  • wear supportive braces.
  • take medications recommended by your doctor, including oral and topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as include aspirin, ibuprofen and topical capsaicin.
  • take supplements such as chondroitin, curcumin and fish oil.

If you have an inflammatory arthritis, it helps if you:

  • take disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, a group of medications that slow down the disease, reducing inflammation and pain.
  • follow an anti-inflammatory diet, which can reduce the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis, according to some research.

Whatever type of arthritis you have, it’s important to seek out your health care provider to find out what might help you live without pain or only occasional pain so you can still enjoy life.


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