According to the Arthritis Foundation, 50 million people in America have arthritis. There is a good chance that someone you know is living with this disease. Today, as part of a two-part series, we wanted to cover what types of arthritis are commonly associated with the elderly and their accompanying symptoms.
Often times, when a person hears the word “arthritis,” they immediately think of stiff joints and lots of pain. Though this may be true to an extent, but there are different types of arthritis that have their own specific symptoms.
Two Common Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis- This form of arthritis affects around 33 million Americans and is also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease. It stems from overuse of joints and is more common in the elderly. Osteoarthritis is more prevalent in joints that bear weight like the spine, hips, feet and knees.
What happens with osteoarthritis?
Basically, the cartilage which is the material that covers the ends of bones and serves as the body’s shock absorber gradually breaks down. As it begins to wear away, it doesn’t work as well as it should which results in pain when the joint is moved. In addition, the cushioning of the joint is lost and inflammation could potentially occur.
- Tenderness– If light pressure is applied to the joints, do they feel tender?
- Stiffness- Do they feel stiff when they wake up or after not moving around for a while?
- Flexibility- Are they unable to move their joints in a full range of motion?
- Bone spurs- Are there hard lumps formed around the affected joint?
- Pain- Does their joint hurt during or after any movement?
Rheumatoid arthritis- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects more than 1.3 million Americans. This particular type of arthritis is an autoimmune disease which means that the immune system attacks parts of the body. In this case, it’s the synovium, which is a thin membrane that lines the joints. These attacks can result in the fluid building up in the joints which then leads to joint pain and inflammation.
Pay close attention to your loved one if they complain about any of the following symptoms of RA:
- Stiffness- Are your loved one’s joints getting harder to use and have limited range of motion? Do they experience “morning stiffness?” If they do, does it take more than an hour, sometimes several hours before their joints begin to loosen up?
- Redness and warmth- Is the joint more pink or red than other parts of their body? Do their joints feel warm?
- Swelling-Are their joints inflamed and feel sensitive and tender? If fluid enters into the joint, it will in turn become puffy and that could contribute to stiffness.
Although these are only two of the more common types of arthritis that affect the elderly, it’s always a good idea to contact a physician if your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms. The sooner your loved one is diagnosed with arthritis the sooner they can receive proper treatment.
Stay tuned for part two when we will discuss the various types of treatment for arthritis.