I'm a 37 YO white male w/ a wonderful (stress-free) home life and no medical problems until recently. On December 14th of 2007, I started experiencing chronic lightheadedness (NOT vertigo, but rather intense 5 - 10 minute "lightheadedness" episodes, off & on all day). It would sometimes accompany eye pain (not vision problems), which would also come and go. The root of this problem was never identified, even after a CT scan and MRI of the brain, ENG testing for inner ear problems, a nerve conduction study and several bloods for diabetes & heart disease. Every doctor I saw was stumped for a diagnosis. Fortunately, the lightheadedness and eye pain has improved significantly, and I feel like it's getting better (WHEW).
But more recently, in mid February of 2008, I noticed an ache in the MP knuckles on my right hand (my PC mouse hand). Back pain in my upper thoracic / lower cervical area also surfaced about the same time. One month later (mid March) the ache in my knuckles and back had gotten worse, and I also noticed some mild redness on my aforementioned right-hand MP knuckles, so I consulted with a rheumatologist. He ordered several X-Rays on my back and found mild disc degeneration and evidence of osteophyte growth on my spine. He also ran some blood work (RA factor, SED rate, CCP, CRP and ANA, etc.) to check for Rheumatoid Arthritis and / or Lupus, but those tests came back negative/normal. I've only received his X-Ray notes and a Physical Therapy prescription by mail, having not spoken to him since my only visit. His test results said... "mild spondylosis of the spine; possible early osteoarthritis." Fortunately, my back is responding nicely to the PT, however, I feel as if the aching knuckle issue has been put on the back burner. I've also noticed some aching in my knees & elbows, and even more alarming, the bottom of my left foot (at the ball of my left foot) has REALLY started aching (when I walk on it or hit the clutch pedal in my car). This started at the beginning of this month (April '08) and has gotten progressively worse. I've never had anything ache for more than 2 days in my entire life!
Are all the aforementioned joint problems indicative with osteoarthritis? While I vaguely recollect problems with my knees and elbows starting to surface over the past year, it's still strange to me that I would experience a seemingly profound onset of multiple joint problems in a near 'domino affect' during the same relatively tight timeline (all within two months). Moreover, the redness, albeit mild and probably only noticeable by me, in my right-hand knuckle doesn't seem to fit the traditional osteo profile, or at least I've read that "inflammation is not common." If these are the aches and pains of getting older with osteo, then FINE... I'll deal with it. But should I still be resolute with the osteoarthritis diagnosis for ALL the joint problems mentioned above? Can anyone share their osteo onset experience with me and did it involve multiple joints at once?
Furthermore, anytime I type "inflammatory arthritis" in any search engine, several links on 'rheumatoid arthritis' is almost always in tow, so are they the exact same thing? Or is it actually possible to have inflammatory arthritis, without having rheumatoid arthritis? I haven't experienced much symmetrical joint problems, and I've experienced NO swelling, but I have recently experienced some stiffness in the morning with my right hand (lasting no more than 30 seconds). I ask because I also know that a "negative / normal" RA test doesn't mean I'm in the clear for RA, so I want to make sure I'm covering all my basis here.
SIDE NOTE: If anyone's thinking REACTIVE / SEPTIC arthritis, I did go to Jamaica in June of '07 (smoked a lot of weed after some of the locals there). HOWEVER, it seems as if the incubation period for some kind of exotic virus would have been too long between my trip and the onset of my symptoms (6 months or more).
Any insight would be greatly appreciated (13 cool points to the first one who replies). The ambiguity of all this has nearly drove me BATTY! Please HELP!