Afraid your stiff, achy joints could mean rheumatoid arthritis?
It could just be a simple, curable virus.
This virus has sometimes been mistakenly diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis because its symptoms include chronic joint disease.
In a two-year study conducted by Dr. Stanley J. Naides of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, the tiny human virus parvovirus B19 was found to be so common that 40 to 60 percent of adults worldwide already have its antibodies. It’s called chronic arthropathy to distinguish it from true arthritis.
Adults with chronic arthropathy seem to suffer an influenza-like illness along with stiff joints, while in children the virus can appear as a facial rash that resembles slapped cheeks.
The condition affects more women than men and is especially widespread for those in the nursing, teaching and day-care professions.
The B19 infection can cause a critical shortage of red blood cell production, according to Dr. Naides.
Persistent nonproduction of red blood cells can result in bone marrow suppression (the body’s failure to produce bone marrow).
Those particularly vulnerable to chronic arthropathy are fetuses, people with chronic anemia, sickle cell anemia or AIDS.
The good news is the B19 virus can be fought with blood transfusions or by administering gamma globulin (a protein formed in the blood that helps in the body’s ability to resist infection).
If you suspect your aching joints might be caused by parvovirus B19, check with your doctor.