Joint Pain? These 8 Conditions Could Be to Blame

Are you suffering from tender, aching joints? From gout to rheumatoid arthritis to psoriatic arthritis, pinpoint the cause of your joint pain with this guide.

"Oh, my aching joints." No doubt you've heard this before (or maybe you've said it yourself). It's more than a cliché. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from joint pain that can sometimes be debilitating. If you have joint pain, your top priority should be to find out what's behind the tender, aching joints so you can get the right therapies. "Diagnosis is absolutely critical," says James O'Dell, MD, chief of rheumatology at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. "Start off with your primary care doctor, but if you're continuing to have a problem, you need to get a rheumatologist."

Here, eight possible conditions that could be causing aches and pain in your joints.

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Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic joint condition and affects 27 million people in the U.S. It occurs when when cartilage—which normally protects the joints—breaks down, causing the bones to rub directly against each other and triggering pain and swelling. Although osteoarthritis mostly affects older people, it can appear in those of all ages. Your risk is especially high if you are obese or have overused a joint (such as by playing a sport for many years).The knees, hips, lower back and neck, fingers, base of the thumb, and big toe are most often affected.

Activity can also aggravate symptoms:"If it gets worse the more you do and the more you're up and down after activities of a day, that makes us think more of an osteoarthritis situation and not an inflammatory situation," says O'Dell. Exercise and over-the-counter pain relievers may help keep you moving.

02 of 08

Psoriatic arthritis

Managing psoriatic arthritis can be challenging, especially since there's no cure for the autoimmune disease that tends to affect around 30% of individuals who have psoriasis. The condition typically presents itself as pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints.

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Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disabling autoimmune disease that can be tricky to diagnose.

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Lupus

To get a better sense of lupus, watch this video to learn more about the condition, and whether or not you or a loved one may have it.

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Gout

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Gout is an extremely painful form of arthritis—in fact, the pain is so acute that it can wake you up in the middle of the night. "It's extraordinarily painful and debilitating," says O'Dell. Gout typically affects the big toe, and inaddition to causing pain, the toe can also become swollen and hot to the touch. This type of arthritis is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood(uric acid is the byproduct of purines, which are found in foods like liver, turkey, beer, and red meat).Episodes can last three to 10 days and may be triggered by stress or alcohol. Being overweight also puts you at risk, and men are more likely to have the condition than women.

The good news? It's also "extremely treatable," O'Dell says. Avoiding purine-rich foods such as scallops, herring, and red meat may help, as cantaking medications to tame the condition.

06 of 08

Lyme disease

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Joint pain is one of many possible symptoms of the tick-borne illness Lyme disease. While the classic early sign of Lyme is a telltale "bull's-eye" rash, one of the later symptoms (usually appearing weeks or months after a tick bite) is arthritis and joint pain in the knees and other large joints. Usually only one or two joints are affected simultaneously, and episodes tend to become less frequent and less severe as time goes on. If you think you may have Lyme, it's important to get an early diagnosis and treatment, as well as ongoing medical care.

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Hypothyroidism

The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck, is responsible for controlling a variety of bodily functions.

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Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia, a condition that affects 2% to 4% of the population, is seen more often in women than men. It causes widespread tenderness and musculoskeletal pain, along with fatigue, memory problems, and more. There is no specific test for the condition, so it can take time to be properly diagnosed.

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