Joint pain, also known as arthralgia, is a very common symptom and can result from a number of causes. The most common causes are trauma, infection, degenerative changes (arthritis) and autoimmune pathology.
The severity of the joint pain can vary greatly according to the condition causing it, and it may present alongside a range of other symptoms. It may get better or worse with age and even vary during the course of the day depending on activity levels.
Joint pain in older people that gradually worsens over years and is worse after activity may be indicative of osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the UK. Pain and stiffness are the result of the loss of cartilage within the joint, causing damage to the bones. Osteoarthritis can also affect younger people, especially if they have suffered traumatic joint injuries in the past.
If the pain comes in discrete attacks, affects one joint, and is associated with hot, red skin, it could be gout or pseudogout. Gout is a build-up of a substance called uric acid, which can lead to the formation of crystals in the joint. These crystals cause inflammation and are extremely painful, and is likely to affect the big toe first. Pseudogout follows a similar mechanism however the crystals are made of calcium pyrophosphate and tend to affect the knee joint first.
Another cause is rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune-mediated painful swelling of the hands, wrists or feet. This also tends to affect joints symmetrically. It is associated with stiffness of the joint in the morning and after periods of inactivity but is improved with gentle and continuous movement of the joint. One distinguishing feature of this condition, though not present in all people, is the rheumatoid nodule, which is usually found under the skin over bony prominences, such as the elbow.
Less common causes include reactive arthritis and psoriatic arthritis (associated with psoriasis, a condition that causes patches of red skin to form ). Simply injuring the joint can also cause pain and swelling, leading to synovitis (inflammation of the lining of the joint).
Widespread joint pain can be a result of a systemic disease, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (an autoimmune condition where healthy cells are attacked) or scleroderma (hardening of the skin and connective tissue throughout the body).
If the joint pain can be identified as a symptom of a particular condition that primary cause will be treated appropriately. Alongside that several types of painkiller can be used depending on the severity of the condition and how it affects your quality of life. These range form over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to much more potent opioid medications.
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Doctify Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. In the event of an emergency, please call 999 for immediate assistance.