Angela Lundberg, a Minneapolis native, was shattered when doctors told her that the pain in her feet that had spread to her fingers was rheumatoid arthritis. She was just 18 and the only other person, who she could remember suffering from this disease, was her grandmother. What she didn’t know was that 1.3 million Americans suffering from the condition are aged between 18 to 40 years.
In women, the risk of developing the condition is almost twice that men. According to Dr, John M. Davis, a rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minneapolis, the peak age for arthritis onset is mid-50s. The increased risk in women can be linked to the effect of hormones on genetics and certain environmental factors. No exact origin of this condition has been identified, but it has been linked to genetics, smoking and other such external factors.
A common delay in diagnosis
Young people suffering from the condition often go undiagnosed because they do not appear sick, even though the disease wears their joint linings, damages their hearts and scars their lungs. On the part of the patient, youthfulness and denial often delays the diagnosis.
Yvonne, a 28 year old singer, was slim and had played sports all her life. She injured her knee at her job and took to physical therapy and exercise got to treat the large swelling. A few months later when she visited an orthopedic surgeon, the biopsies confirmed that she had rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis can be diagnosed by putting together its symptoms. Doctors usually look for swelling or reduced joint movement. X-ray's and blood tests are also very useful in diagnosis. If the condition is diagnosed early, its progress can be delayed. But this is not easy as early symptoms of the disease can be very general like weakness, weight loss, muscle soreness and slight fever.
There are a host of anti-inflammatory medicines available in the market. Some have steroids, while others are steroid free. But there is no guarantee that either of them will work. Injectable biologic medications are a new innovation in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. They have made remission an achievable goal.
Physical therapy is also important for young adults who suffer from arthritis. Heat therapy has also proven successful in treating many young adults with arthritis. If the pain or deformity of the joint are extreme, surgery may be the best option. Joint replacement can add years of mobility to a person's life.
Dr. Eric M. Ruderman, associate professor and rheumatologist at Chicago's Northwestern University Feinberg School, states that the idea behind therapy is remission of arthritis and not only making the patients feel better. Unlike elderly patients, youngsters end up being on treatment for several decades. Modern medicine can help them prevent years of stiffness, pain and fatigue.
Today, the treatment for arthritis is more aggressive as compared to earlier methods. The treatments today focuses on reducing the diseases activity and joint deformity quickly. It is frequently recommended that biological and non-biological treatments be accompanied by non-medical treatments like physical and occupational therapy.