How to recognize if a joint is inflamed? How to distinguish a rheumatic pain? Professor Carlo Selmi, Head of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology in Humanitas and lecturer at the University of Milan, spoke about this topic as guest in Cuore and Denari on Radio 24.

One of the first elements to pay attention to is the duration of pain over time: if it lasts several weeks, without any change, it could be inflammatory. Another important element is the presence of stiffness in the morning, at awakening: a few minutes of stiffness is normal, but if it were to continue, it is a warning signal; patients with arthritis may have a stiffness at awakening that lasts for a few hours. Moreover, swelling is always suspicious: a painful swelling makes one think strongly about arthritis,” explains Prof. Selmi.


Arthritis, also common in young people

Compared to what was thought in the past, it is worth noting that rheumatic diseases also affect young people, especially arthritis. Suspected signs in these patients are: swelling, characteristic and localized pain, especially in the hands, and back pain with inflammatory characteristics, particularly at awakening and early onset before the age of 40.

Then there is a less known form of arthritis, psoriasic arthritis, which is very different from rheumatoid arthritis. Skin psoriasis affects 3% of the population in Italy and 20% of these patients will develop arthritis. It is sufficient to have a family member of first or second degree with psoriasis to be at risk of arthritis,” explains Prof. Selmi.


Dryness and redness

Another signal not to be underestimated is a feeling of dryness in the eyes, mouth and sometimes the genital tract; although quite frequent with aging, it can be a warning signal for connective diseases, such as Sjögren’s syndrome.

The redness of the face and nose may also be associated with connective diseases, in particular systemic lupus erythematosus, a disease that is quite rare, but usually manifests itself with an interest in the skin, such as a butterfly rush on the face, often triggered by exposure to the sun.


Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs

The painkillers are preferable solutions for arthrosic pain, i.e. joint wear. The best known is paracetamol, a drug that below 3000 mg per day is basically safe in anyone and has no side effects. Instead, anti-inflammatory drugs should be taken with caution and for short periods of time. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have a thin safety profile and should therefore be taken at the right dosage and for short cycles (one week, 10 days, maximum two weeks). On the other hand, there is a great use of corticosteroids against arthritis and they have a great anti-inflammatory effect “, Prof. Selmi points out.