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swollen painful small joints

  After having a baby in December 97 and during breastfeeding I developed sore and swollen finger and toe joints, which were extremely stiff upon waking.  They did relax during the course of the day and now, since I have stopped breastfeeding, seem to be returning to normal.  
  The health care here, which unfortunately, isn't as good as home, dished out some antibiotics and basically said that if this didn't help I was to live with it.  As I don't want to wake up one morning with permanently stiff fingers I would like to know why it happened and help it not happen again.  Is it something to do with breastfeeding ?
  I had a normal pregnancy, no problems,  with a section delivery.
Dear Fiona:
Postpartum and breast feeding is a state in which estrogen levels are low. Estrogen levels are low following menopause. These are all times when joint symptoms may occur. Although there have been attempts to link the symptoms to the hormone state, it is more likely that this is an unmasking of underlying issues that present with joint symptoms. The most common is obviously arthritis.
The treatment of arthritis is initially symptom treatment: use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen and naproxyn are both available in the USA over the counter).
Your comment suggests that you are in a medically under-served area: consultation with a rheumatologist (a physician with extra training in joint disease) and at least minimal screening blood tests (eg: antinuclear antibody test) would seem logical.
Henry Ford Health System has a Division of Rheumatology: 313-876-2631(phone appointment) 313-876-8065 (fax)
This information is provided for general purposes only and is not a formal medical consultation. If you have specific questions, please contact your physician.

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