I Was Diagnosed With Arthritis In My 20s: Here's What It's Like

Illustrated by Lisa Tegtmeier
When you hear the word 'arthritis', you probably think of your nan struggling with her stiff hands or swollen hip joints. It's certainly not a disease most of us associate with women in their 20s and 30s – but for younger women who do live with various forms of arthritis, it can have a profound effect on their careers, social lives and relationships, as well as their decisions about when and how to start a family.
Arthritis describes a category of conditions that cause joint pain and inflammation. The two main forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) – typically associated with 'wear and tear', which mostly affects joints in the hands, knees, hips and spine; and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – a form of inflammatory arthritis where the body's immune system targets certain joints, causing swelling and pain.
Other sub-types of inflammatory arthritis include ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which affects the bones, muscles and ligaments of the spine, and psoriatic arthritis (PsA), which affects the skin and joints.
Treatments – such as oral medications or injections – are used to manage arthritis symptoms and potentially achieve remission, but sufferers may still experience painful flare-ups.
As the #MaybeBaby campaign launches to help younger women with inflammatory arthritis make informed choices about their futures, three women – who were all diagnosed in their 20s – tell us what living with arthritis has taught them.

More from Body

R29 Original Series