What Causes Arthritis in Young Adults? 

Arthritis is a condition where there is joint pain and swelling. In many cases, it is associated with stiffness as well. Juvenile arthritis or arthritis in young adults is not the most common kind of arthritis, but it can make life very debilitating to an age group that is typically very active in life. For many people suffering from arthritis at a young age, it can be very overwhelming and frustrating. Additionally, arthritis at a young age can negatively impact the quality of life for anyone that is suffering from it.

When you are wondering what causes arthritis in young adults, it will not take you long to learn that there are many known factors. Young arthritis and symptoms of arthritis in young adults are very similar to arthritis in other age brackets. Still, it can be frightening and difficult to deal with for people that are at a turning point in starting their lives. Learn more about what causes arthritis in young adults and how to manage it here.

Genetics and Family History

It is well documented that genetics and family history play a large role in symptoms of arthritis in young adults. To determine what causes arthritis in young adults, doctors will often look to genetic factors and family history. There are many known causes of young arthritis, and genetics alongside environmental factors in the youth’s life will play a significant role in the development of young arthritis.

In many cases, young arthritis does not have a known cause. However, arthritis is a disease of inflammation that can start from a wide range of factors. Inflammation is a problem of the body that typically begins when the immune system is producing a lot of white blood cells in a body part that needs repair. That could be the result of injury or trauma, but in many cases, it is caused by genetics. Sometimes there is an excess of white blood cells such that the inflammation occurs when it typically doesn’t have to.

For example, it is normal for a body part to swell in heat or due to injury. However, genetics can cause that too. Once healing begins with an injured or traumatized body part, the inflammation ends or begins to end as well. When genetics play a role, this is not always the case. For young adults with juvenile arthritis, this kind of inflammation is caused by genetics.

The genetics of arthritis in young people is boiled down to a family history of arthritis, and the roles of specific genes that can cause arthritis. Some studies have identified the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex as the genetic complex that results in youth arthritis. This genetic complex helps the body to create proteins that fight foreign invaders such as a virus or bacteria. There are many different variations of the HLA complex, and some of these variations can result in arthritis in young people.

Young people with a family history of arthritis or immune disorder issues may be especially at risk of getting arthritis. When a young person begins struggling with arthritis, these risk factors will be examined when treating the condition. In addition, the patient will want to change lifestyle factors and promote overall joint health to combat some of the more serious symptoms and outcomes of young arthritis.

Lifestyle Factors and Joint Health

Because arthritis is a disease that can significantly reduce the quality of life of the person suffering from it, there are many lifestyle factors you want to take into consideration. Life does change sometimes for people with arthritis, but it doesn’t always have to. There is a wide range of things you can do with your life in order to improve the quality of life when you have arthritis. You can also make it easier on yourself in a number of ways.

Maintaining a healthy weight will be the number one recommendation for looking at lifestyle factors that contribute to arthritis. Having excess weight can place undue burdens on the individual that is suffering. It will increase inflammation and cause unnecessary pain if the weight does not become managed.

Along with this comes maintaining a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy diet will help you to maintain a healthy weight when you are struggling with arthritis. At the same time, eating well will ensure that you are more equipped physically to fight disease or disease progression. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet will help you to combat the negative impacts of arthritis and inflammation, and perhaps even make the condition more manageable. This is in addition to helping you to keep excess weight off of your inflamed joints and muscles.

Lack of physical activity can also contribute to arthritis in young people. When an area of the body is inflamed, physical activity will continue to stiffen the muscles and body parts. This could result in the progression of young arthritis.

Occupation and or extracurricular activities can play a role in helping to fight the inflammation caused by arthritis in young people. If you have a job that causes undue strain on a body part that is impacted by arthritis, it could aggravate the condition. At the same time, young people may be forced to be benched from extracurricular activities because of arthritis. These factors may aggravate young arthritis, but could also stimulate blood flow and healthy immune system functioning to better manage the disease. At the end of the day, a healthy lifestyle will always be the number one way to ensure that you are doing everything you can to improve lifestyle factors and prevent arthritis.

Autoimmune Conditions and Arthritis

An autoimmune condition occurs when the body’s means of fighting off infections and disease is compromised. In other words, the body’s own immune system will begin to fight itself. This is a serious problem when it comes to young people that are predisposed to arthritis. When you have an autoimmune disease, the body can not tell the difference between a good cell and a bad cell. As a result, the body will begin to attack itself.

For people with arthritis, inflamed areas become worsened. Genetics will play a role here too. Young people that have a family history of autoimmune disorder will be more at risk of autoimmune-related arthritis.

The most common types of autoimmune arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and arthritis that may be caused by certain thyroid problems. Rheumatoid arthritis is a kind of arthritis where the immune system attacks the joints. It is a debilitating condition that can strike at any age.

Psoriasis is a skin condition that is indicated by scaly patches on the skin. This can result in a kind of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis, a type of arthritis that is caused by this skin condition. The condition of psoriasis is a problem in itself, and along with arthritis, will significantly worsen someone’s quality of life. Still, there are treatments for both psoriasis and arthritis.

Injuries and Joint Trauma

Injury and joint trauma will not only exacerbate existing arthritic conditions but will also cause arthritis in young people. When a joint is injured and becomes inflamed, arthritis can quickly follow. In most cases, this kind of arthritis is temporary, but it can be worsened if you have pre-existing conditions that cause inflammation. Still, post-traumatic arthritis can take several months to heal or fully recover from.

Unlike other kinds of arthritis, arthritis caused by trauma is most common in young people. Older people are more likely to have a different kind of arthritis if they have arthritis at all. The areas of the body that are most likely to be impacted by post-traumatic arthritis include the ankles, knees, elbows, and hips. You will experience pain, swelling, and stiffness in these joints, and they may be tender or sensitive to the touch. The most common causes of post-traumatic arthritis in young people include car accidents and sporting injuries.

The sooner these injuries and traumas are treated, the more likely the patient will recover fully. Keep your weight in a healthy range and be sure to take care of yourself after injury with a healthy diet and an active life. You may need surgery or medication to recover as well. The sooner you get active again, the quicker you will heal.

Environmental Factors and Arthritis Risk

There is a wide body of evidence that indicates a number of environmental factors that contribute to youth arthritis. Smoking or excessive toxin intake is one of them. Some studies indicate that when these toxins are consumed during pregnancy, the immune system could be compromised in such a way that it predisposes someone to youth arthritis. Other environmental factors that contribute to this disease are weight issues such as obesity, dietary issues, and physical activity levels.

Smoking during pregnancy is not the only known environmental toxin that can predispose someone to arthritis. Smoking in the environment at all can cause health problems and inflammation. This inflammation can exacerbate or worsen existing arthritic conditions. Worse, patients that are exposed to smoking while they are recovering from arthritis may take a longer time to heal than those who are not exposed to this toxin.

Managing and Preventing Arthritis in Young Adults

There are many ways to manage and prevent arthritis in young adults. If your young adult already has it, ensure that their lifestyle factors match a mindset of wellness and healthy behavior. Be sure that they are maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet. You also want to give them control over their body and their lives so that they feel like autonomous decisions can help them get better. This mindset will help them to get better.

At the same time, physical activity will help to both manage and prevent arthritis in young adults. When you are physically active, blood flow to the damaged body tissue will help to heal and promote an immune response.

Heal From Arthritis Today

When you are a young person, the last thing you want to interfere with your life is an illness that could result in a lost scholarship, no social life, and anxiety. There are ways to heal and manage arthritis in young people that can help. Maintain a healthy weight and active lifestyle, and talk to your doctor about your health. Take control of your pain and learn what causes arthritis in young adults. Starting there is half the battle. Heal from arthritis today.

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers is currently a Resident in the Internal Medicine program at UTMB. He studied at the University of Queensland School of Medicine as well as received his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Southern California. His background is in biology, computer science, public health, and internal medicine.

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