Senior Arthritis

Arthritis is a term that refers to the inflammation of joints, but there are several types of arthritis that you should be aware of.

While osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis to affect senior citizens, elderly-onset rheumatoid arthritis is still fairly common. Therefore, it is important to learn more about all three of these chronic diseases, including symptoms and treatment options. Furthermore, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the exercise routines that can aid you in relieving symptoms, delaying onset and even preventing the various forms of arthritis. To learn more about the most common forms of arthritis among seniors, including prevention and treatment options, review the information in the sections below.

Understanding Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as OA, is the most common form of arthritis among senior citizens in America. In fact, over 20 million individuals within the United States have been diagnosed with this chronic disease. OA is associated with the breakdown of cartilage within joints, which can occur from the aging of joints, extra stress on a joint or due to an injury. In fact, most senior citizens will be diagnosed with osteoarthritis, but the severity of OA can be anywhere between mild and severe. Statistically, osteoarthritis effects more women than men. Osteoarthritis can affect almost any joint in the body, but it is most common in weight-bearing joints such as your knees, spine and hips. Osteoarthritis in the fingers, thumb, neck and large toe is also common.

Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage that is found in your joint to become stiff, lose elasticity and make your joints further susceptible to damage. Over time, OA can also greatly decrease your ability for your joints to act as shock absorbers. If OA worsens, your bones can begin to rub against each other, causing further pain. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Joint aching or soreness, especially with movement of a particular joint.
  • Pain after overuse or long stretches of inactivity.
  • Stiffness after periods of inactivity.
  • Bony enlargements in the middle or end of fingers.
  • Joint swelling.

There are a number of factors that determine the likelihood that you will develop osteoarthritis, such as genetics. People born with joint abnormalities are also far more likely to develop OA. Other chronic diseases, such as scoliosis, can also influence the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis.

Obesity can strongly increase the risk for osteoarthritis in the knee, hip and spine. If you are currently obese, losing weight and maintaining an ideal weight may help you to prevent OA from developing. Once osteoarthritis has been established, weight loss can also decrease the rate of OA progression and symptoms.

Injury is another common factor in osteoarthritis, especially if the injury was centered on a joint. Joint overuse resulting from jobs that require repeated bending of the knees, can also increase your risk for OA later in life. If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you will be more likely to develop OA.

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed based upon a number of factors including:

  • The location and pattern of the pain you are experiencing.
  • Your description of your symptoms.
  • A physical exam.
  • X-rays.

X-rays are incredibly useful and often used to confirm a diagnosis. X-rays can also determine the type of arthritis that you have or whether you have multiple forms of arthritis. X-rays can even determine how much joint damage has already occurred. In some cases, your doctor may even want to perform an MRI in order to get a better look at the joint in question and the surrounding tissue.

OA is treated by a combination of weight loss, medication, hot and cold compression and physical therapy. In severe cases of OS, surgery may be recommended when other treatment options have not relieved symptoms.

Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis

While rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50, symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can first appear in later years. This is referred to as elderly-onset RA and only one third of all people with this disease are diagnosed in older years. Elderly-onset RA is very different than normal RA as it accompanied by different symptoms, statistics and treatment options.

While women are more likely to develop RA during younger years, elderly-onset RA appears to have a similar rate among both men and women. While normal rheumatoid arthritis displays symptoms that begin to appear over time, elderly-onset RA will typically include “acute onset”, which refers to a sudden flare up of symptoms.

Elderly-onset RA is also different from normal rheumatoid arthritis in the joints that generally feel painful. The disease will normally begin in small joints for younger people, such as fingers and toes, while senior citizens are far more likely to feel pain and stiffness in larger joints, such as the shoulders.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Anemia

Overall, elderly-onset rheumatoid arthritis tends to be less severe than younger individuals who are diagnosed with the disease, but it is still one to be taken seriously.

When considering treatment options with your doctor, it is important to keep in mind that your goal in treatment is remission, which is the lowest possible level of the disease’s activity. There is currently no cure for this disease that will guarantee that it will not reappear later. However, if your RA goes into remission, you can prevent joint damage.

Elderly-onset rheumatoid arthritis is generally treated with medication, but it is also important keep your joints active by engaging in a regular exercise routine. You may also benefit from physical therapy, aqua therapy and balance exercises.

An Exercise Routine Can Relieve Arthritis Pain

If you have arthritis, or if you would like to decrease your likelihood of the development of arthritis, a healthy exercise routine can be a tremendous help. Physical activity that is not too hard on your joints can improve your joint’s function, relieve some of your arthritis pain and improve your overall quality of life. Some of the best exercises that you can engage in if you have arthritis is walking, biking, swimming and aqua aerobics. While it is better to have a routine that allows you to exercise most days of the week, any physical activity is better than nothing. You can speak with your doctor about the forms of exercise that might be the most beneficial to you, but it is important to start slow and pay attention to how your body tolerates the change.

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