Medical Q&As

Arthritis - am I at risk?

I have recently being getting pains in the joints in my hands. My mother had severe osteoarthritis of her hands and eventually became so incapacitated that she couldn't do anything for herself. I am really worried that I will follow that pattern. My 2 sisters also suffer with pain in their joints. Is there anything I can do to halt or reverse or limit the damage? Does it also mean I will get it elsewhere? I am really depressed over this.

I can understand your fears and concerns especially since you have had first hand experience of the potentially devastating effects of arthritis on a personís quality of life. You have witnessed the gradual decline of your motherís health and independence and now you are experiencing pains in your hands and wonder if this is a case of history repeating itself. I would question the diagnosis of osteoarthritis because the aggressive nature of your motherís course of illness would suggest to me a more active form of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis. You also say that your symptoms are of recent origin. There are many innocent causes of hand pain and your symptoms do not necessarily suggest that you will follow the same path as your mother. For example if your work involved typing then your hand pain could be due to wrist strain. Perhaps you have had a recent flu like illness and are experiencing some residual muscle and joint pain after the event. If your joints are swollen and look inflamed or if the joints just donít look right to you then visit your GP and be medically assessed. However, if you are just experiencing some pain with no other symptoms and your performance is not affected then it is reasonable to take simple pain relieving remedies and carry on. If the pain shows no sign of abating over the coming weeks then visit your GP. My main message to you is that your views on arthritis have been heavily coloured by observing your motherís suffering. The hand pain you are experiencing does not mean that you will repeat her awful experience.