Arthritis or Joint Inflammation among Seniors


Arthritis or Joint Inflammation

As you age, the joints of your body also go through a lot of wear and tear giving rise to a group of conditions collectively known as arthritis or inflammation of the joints. Arthritis generally occurs when there is a breakdown of the cartilage. Cartilage protects the joints and absorbs shocks when pressure is put on them. When there is a reduction in the amount of this cushion of cartilage, the bones painfully rub against each other, causing inflammation and stiffness in the joints. Around 37 million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis.

Types of arthritis

The two most commonly occurring form of arthritis is:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Osteoarthritis affects the joints in hips, hands, spine and knee and causes swelling, pain and tenderness. Seniors are more at risk from this type of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease which is at times difficult to diagnose as the symptoms set in very gradually. It may even cause loss of joint function.

Other types of arthritis include:

  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Viral arthritis
  • Gonococcal arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Gout
  • Tertiary Lyme disease
  • Tuberculous arthritis

Symptoms of arthritis

The common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain in the joints
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Redness of skin around joints
  • Warmth around joints
  • Stiffness of joints ( specially during early mornings)
  • Reduction in the ability to move joints

Causes of arthritis

There can be a number of factors that lead to arthritis, like:

  • General wear and tear of the joints with age
  • Broken bones
  • Infections
  • Autoimmune diseases like Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Obesity
  • Stress on the joints(applicable to baseball players, construction workers and ballet dancers )

Treatment of arthritis

Treatment of arthritis is designed according to the individual conditions that affect the patients. Your age, occupation, the joints affected and the severity of the pain are taken into consideration. Treatments for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, (commonly noticed in seniors), are aimed at reducing pain and discomfort.

Exercise and lifestyle: Exercise is an effective way of improving the symptoms of long-term arthritis. You can consult a physical therapist who will plan an exercise regimen for you. Such an exercise plan will include strength training, motion exercises and low-impact aerobics. Maintaining a proper diet, rich in minerals and vitamins like vitamin E is also essential.

Medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen and corticosteroids are effective in treating arthritis.

Surgeries like arthroplasty and total knee joint replacement may also help you in regaining your normal lifestyle. But these surgeries are usually undertaken as a last resort after all other forms of treatment have failed. Your doctor would be the best person to judge whether you need to undergo surgery.